Canadian Plastics

North American municipalities move to ban plastic bags (May 01, 2007)

Leaf Rapids, a small northern Manitoba town with a population of just over 500 people, has become the first Canadian municipality to institute a ban on single-use plastic bags.

May 1, 2007   Canadian Plastics



Leaf Rapids, a small northern Manitoba town with a population of just over 500 people, has become the first Canadian municipality to institute a ban on single-use plastic bags.

The township passed a municipal bylaw on March 22 prohibiting retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to customers, effective on April 2. Habitual violators of this bylaw could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Many North American municipalities, including officials in large cities like Toronto, have begun discussing the merits of bans or taxes on consumer plastic bags. In the U.S., San Francisco’s city council recently voted 10 to 1 to ban large retailers from using petroleum-based bags, making it the country’s first municipality to place a ban on conventional plastic bags.

The CPIA has been a strong voice in the debate over plastic bag consumption, arguing for kinder alternatives to bans and taxes. “Litter is a behavioural problem, [and] bans are not a solution,” said the CPIA’s Cathy Cirko. “Wise waste management practices are part of the solution, and reuse and recycling of the bags is what we are promoting.”

Compostable bags raise some logistical issues when it comes to use in retail situations, the CPIA said. The association fully endorses the use of compostable bags developed for organics collection programs, but Cirko said compostable shopping bags might have a negative impact if they enter the recycling and landfill waste streams.

There is also the question of the impact these bans could have on the blown film sector, Cirko continued. Plastic shopping bags are a major application for the industry, and continued efforts to ban the bags would also place limits on bag manufacturers. “The attention on bags is unwarranted, and there are other solutions,” she said. “We have a significant industry in Canada, and it will certainly be a negative impact in Canada. There will be lost jobs.”


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