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Banff's new rules for cutting back on single-use items kick-start July 1

“It’s really about the spirit of being a national park community and we probably should have never gotten to the place where we were generating waste at the rate we currently are.”
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The first phase of a new bylaw regulating single-use items in the national park townsite comes into effect July 1.

Under the new rules, a customer must request accessory items like disposable straws, forks, knives, chopsticks, and pre-packaged condiments to receive them.

However, businesses can have self-serve stations for disposable single-use items.

In addition, businesses and event organizers serving food or drinks must have a written policy to accept reusable cups and containers from customers who are not interested in using throw-away items.

Carla Bitz, environmental coordinator with the Town of Banff, said the single-use reduction bylaw is part of the municipality’s aim to divert 70 per cent of landfill waste by 2028, and 100 per cent by 2050.

“The goal is to reduce single-use items and really focus on making re-use the norm in our community as part of our zero waste goals,” she said.

“It’s really about the spirit of being a national park community, and we probably should have never gotten to the place where we were generating waste at the rate we currently are.”

Bitz said the Town of Banff has done outreach with almost every business affected by the new bylaw.

She said the requirement for businesses not to provide disposable accessory items unless customers ask for them may seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but every little bit counts.

“Often times when we get takeaway food, we get a bunch of stuff that we don't actually need. That can be anything from straws to forks to small condiment sachets to napkins,” she said.

“The idea with that requirement is that the customer has to request what they need rather than having it be automatically provided and then going to waste.”

Bitz said some businesses already allow customers to bring in reusable cups and containers.

“Since COVID, for a little while, we saw that go away, but definitely reusable cups are becoming a bit more the norm again,” she said.

In terms of reusable containers, that is probably not as common anymore.

“I think there is often a bit of a myth that we can't bring our own containers for takeaway and refill, and in reality, Alberta Health tells us that we can, as long as it's done safely,” said Bitz.

“The goal of this bylaw requirement is to renormalize that idea that you can bring your own containers and there's no questions or confusion around that.”

The next phase of the bylaw comes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

At that time, restaurants, cafes and bars, including fast-food restaurants, must provide reusable plates, bowls, cups, cutlery and other accessory items for any food or beverages consumed on the premises.

Plastic shopping bags will be also banned at that time, which falls in line with federal regulations.

Businesses may provide paper or reusable bags, if requested, but must charge a minimum fee of 25 cents for paper bags and $2 for reusable bags.

Bitz said Jan. 1 is when the “heart of the bylaw” begins.

“This is where we’re really asking businesses to kind of get back to the basics, to the re-use models that we all knew about 10-15 years ago, where you dine in and re-usable is the norm,” she said.

Some businesses are already getting a jump start ahead of implementation of the bylaw.

Bitz said Tim Hortons is a good example of a quick-service business that brought back reusable foodware for dining in.

She said Dominos, which has a small dine-in area, is also getting ready to offer reusable foodware.

“We really do appreciate that some of those businesses that are chains and quick-service have taken those steps already,” said Bitz.

“We want locals to be aware of that and let businesses know you're staying, and for staff that are working frontline at those businesses to be asking every customer if they’re staying.”