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“While we’re pleased that the bag bylaw has been rescinded, the bag ban seems to have come from nowhere, without any forethought or discourse, and it’s a shock.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 result.”

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, the Toronto Sun and the Toronto Star.

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.

Read more aboutHaremar’s perspective here.

Haremar Plastics

(905) 761-7552