Let’s be honest: Toronto’s five-cent plastic bag fee was bad enough, given the fee’s use was never really clarified, but at least businesses and the public were notified and given the opportunity to respond, before it was implemented it in 2009.
This time, Toronto City Council threw everyone, including the public, a
curveball by bypassing due diligence completely and voting, without public
notice, to ban all plastic bag use by retail outlets starting in 2013. As the
Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee reported on June 7 (“Toronto's
'ludicrous' plastic bag ban was a rush move”), there was an “audible gasp”
when the motion went through.
At its core, the ban is the city negating its responsibility to execute on
its obligation to collect plastic in a constructive way. Plastic bags have a
combined 82% recycling and reuse rate. Although they can be re-used fewer times
than a re-usable bag, 90% of Canadians use them two to three times each, as
garbage bags, lunch bags or for shopping. A typical garbage bag or kitchen
catcher, on the other hand, is made of a thicker film.
And are paper or reusable cloth bags really more environmentally friendly?
Paper bags are thicker and require more energy to manufacture and transport and
while they are made of a renewable resource, the environmental effects of
logging and pulp manufacture are well known. Reusable cloth bags too have
environmental implications: most are dyed a brand-friendly colour (textile
dyeing can have harmful environmental effects) and manufactured in foreign
countries, which have to be shipped here and distributed to retail.
Additionally, these bags must be used many, many times in order to pay for
themselves, both in financial and environmental terms. A plastic bag, on the
other hand, needs only be used a few times before it is paid for and diverted
from landfill into the recycling stream.
We could go on for hours on this topic, but we’ll defer to Carol Hochu,
President & CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, who released
the following statement on June 7 after the City of Toronto’s impromptu vote:
“While we’re pleased that the bag bylaw has been rescinded, the bag ban
seems to have come from nowhere, without any forethought or discourse, and it’s
a shock. We are going to look at all of our available options, including the
legality of the ban.
“As it stands now, this is a lose/lose decision,” the statement continued.
“Torontonians are losing an option for taking home their groceries and other
retail purchases; a segment of the plastics industry is losing a source of
revenue, impacting jobs and investment; retailers are losing because they'll
have to offer their customers a replacement to the plastic bag; and the
environment is a big loser because it will lead to more paper packaging in
Toronto's waste stream.
“The motion to ban was based on a whim. Council had no legal opinion in
hand, had not consulted with residents, and did not talk to industry or
retailers, large or small. Most importantly, Council has not demonstrated any
municipal benefit of a ban. It was a flawed process that has led to a flawed
As a member of the CPIA, Haremar stands behind this statement and we urge
the plastics industry and the business community to respond to this initiative
with action. The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers has already spoken
out against the ban in several media outlets, including Citytv,
Sun and the Toronto
You can take action by contacting your local councillor (if your business is
in Toronto) to demand further investigation into a City of Toronto plastic bag
ban and request that the issue be reconsidered and replaced with increased
focus on diverting plastics from the waste stream. The more voices that are added
to this debate, the stronger our stance will be.
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