In his all-white location on Chemin du Lac-Écho, Daniel Moranville, co-owner of the Kohi micro-roaster, sells hundreds of take-out coffees a month. But it does not charge the eco-contribution of $0.10 per cup required by the municipality.

A year ago, the store replaced its disposable cups with glass jars with black lids. Narrow enough to fit in a car cup holder, they only cost him $0.98 each, which means he can offer a returnable container for just $1.

“Before, we were going through about 1,000 paper cups a month, so we saved at least 12,000 paper cups,” said Moranville, who is also bassist for country singer Matt Lang.

“We saved thousands of dollars,” adds his wife and co-owner, Marie-Andrée Plouffe.

The couple discovered the jars at Bar Nine, a Los Angeles cafe that popularized the hashtag

“This is an example of a project that could be funded with the Responsible Consumption Fund,” said Mayor Paul Germain, met at City Hall.

In this building with stone-riddled exterior walls that give it a mountain air, the municipality of 14,000 inhabitants has started its own revolution.

“I’m talking about a soft radicalism,” the mayor clarifies.

The City first banned three single-use plastic items (straws, coffee stirrers and cotton swabs) in September 2021. In May 2022, it imposed a condition on the sale of non-carbonated water bottles and Windshield Washer Bottles: Also offer bulk fill system. And since last July, merchants must charge a fee of $0.10 to $0.50 on six types of single-use items, including plain water bottles under 750 milliliters and coffee glasses.

“The original draft covered all soft drinks, all juices. We listened, we made a lot of concessions. We are not a city of oddballs, we worked properly, ”assures Mr. Germain.

To compensate for the management costs of merchants who have to collect and remit the tax, the regulation grants them a percentage of the fee, which was higher during the first six months of implementation.

From the second year, the royalties will bring “around $75,000” net per year to the Fund for Responsible Consumption (RCF), estimates the City.

The first initiatives funded by this fund, totaling more than $40,000, have just been announced. A project to install reusable tableware for restaurants, a support service for families wishing to reduce their waste, the supply of residential composters at a reduced price as well as subsidies to install two bulk windshield washer stations have been approved by the city council last Tuesday.

“Projects that will have a reduction effect on residual materials,” explains the mayor. What about reducing the volume of cups and other items subject to a fee? To measure the effect, the City will track merchant reports.

“The duration of use of a bottle of windshield washer fluid is three minutes, and that overloads our recycling centers,” notes the mayor, who hopes that the eco-contribution of $0.50 per bottle will encourage for bulk consumption. And if ever the $0.10 per small bottle of water does not have an effect on purchases, “it will have an impact in other projects”, he argues.

Despite the numerous posters and the mention of the eco-contribution of $0.10 per cup on the bills, none of the four customers seated at Tim Hortons during our visit had noticed the measure. “You are teaching me something!” exclaimed one of them.

Some businesses, such as Couche-Tard, include eco-contributions in the prices displayed, so that they do not appear on the invoices. This is also the approach of the Raymond brothers, co-owners of the café-bakery Les Moulins La Fayette. “You have to manage it, but we’re two 37-year-old guys: when the constraint is positive and has a humble and good goal for everyone, I think it’s worth it,” commented Marc-André Raymond, joint on the phone.

Customers who complain are shown the explanatory posters provided by the City, told us cashiers from other businesses, who were not authorized to speak on behalf of their employers. It was much more frequent “in July, when it started”, testified one of them. Customers who don’t have an urgent need can buy their items in Saint-Jérôme, a dozen kilometers away, but with “the price of gas, you might as well pay them here,” another commented.

On this beautiful sunny Thursday, the bulk washer stations were deserted. At the posted rates ($1.25 to $1.79 per litre, taxes included), filling a 3.78-litre container would have cost us between $4.73 and $6.77. More expensive than the prices displayed for a container in certain chains in the province, but less than the price charged in one of Prévost’s convenience stores for a container ($7.46, taxes included, etc.).

The fee imposed by Prévost on certain single-use items is “a super interesting measure in its application,” said economist Alexandre Ainsley, senior consultant at Aviseo Conseil, who recently gave training on eco-taxation to the Union des municipalities of Quebec (UMQ).

“On the one hand, we put a price signal for the consumer, and on the other hand, we give him options by financing more sustainable alternatives. We fund the disposal of residual materials, but also the initiatives of businesses, ”explained Mr. Ainsley in a telephone interview.

Associations of traders do not share his enthusiasm.

“It becomes complicated because the banner checkout systems are not equipped to do this type of manipulation locally,” laments the spokesperson for the Association of Quebec Food Retailers (ADAQ), Stéphane Lacasse. The same goes for the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), which fears “that [its] members will receive sanctions because employees forgot to punch eco-contributions,” said spokesperson Martin Vézina.

No municipality has yet followed suit in Prévost. “We have a lot of calls,” however, Mayor Paul Germain told us.

In Mascouche, in Lanaudière, the filing of a draft by-law “is expected over the next few weeks,” City spokeswoman Isabelle Gagné told us by email. In nearby Terrebonne, such a bylaw “is still in development,” spokeswoman Marie-Ève ​​Courchesne wrote to us. The amounts and objects concerned remain to be determined.

In the meantime, the two municipalities have banned a series of plastic items, including straws, utensils and containers, with a transition period until next September, and launched a joint campaign1.

The City of Vancouver, on the other hand, has just eliminated its eco-contribution on disposable coffee cups, underline the two associations of Quebec merchants. “Vancouver had imposed it for a change in behavior that didn’t happen: they realized that people were paying, and that’s it,” said Stéphane Lacasse, of the ADAQ.

Starting May 1, merchants in Vancouver will no longer have to collect the $0.25 eco-fee per single-use glass that has been in place since January 1, 2022.

“Businesses and residents have told us loud and clear that this fee is ineffective,” the councilor who recommended abolition, Rebecca Bligh, said in a statement.

However, no data has yet been published on the outcome of this experiment.

Of the 25 Prévost merchants subject to the eco-contribution on coffee cups, small bottles of water and other single-use items, only one refuses to collect it, the mayor told us. “I don’t want to identify it because it might turn everyone off and my goal is to be successful. »

The municipal by-law provides for fines of $1,000 to $2,000, which can go up to $4,000 for repeat offences. “We’re not there, we’re in persuasion mode. We work in change management, we are not in a perspective of confrontation. »

Out of 14,000 residents, the City received “four complaints, including a citizen who does not live in the municipality,” he said.

Aware that cities draw inspiration from each other, Prévost published and popularized its regulations on its website2. She had also put up signs last year, with slogans like “All of Quebec will be a little greener.” Of jealousy. »

“We can’t wait for others to imitate us. Of course, if it was pan-provincial, it would be easier, ”acknowledges Paul Germain.