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Toronto bans plastic bags

In a surprise city council vote that the mayor denounced as “ludicrous”, Toronto has become the first major city in Canada to ban plastic shopping bags at retailers effective Jan. 1.


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June 8, 2012 by Canadian Plastics

In a surprise city council vote that the mayor denounced as “ludicrous”, Toronto has become the first major city in Canada to ban plastic shopping bags at retailers effective Jan. 1.

Mayor Rob Ford, who told reporters that the ban will probably face a legal challenge, had asked city council to scrap Toronto’s contentious five-cent levy for plastic shopping bags. Council supported the mayor and voted to scrap the tax, and then proceeded to pass a last-minute motion to ban bags outright. “It is not a smart move by council to ban plastic bags,” Ford told reporters after the vote. “I don’t think it is going to hold up in court. You can’t tell people they can’t give out plastic bags. To me it’s ludicrous.”

According to news reports, some retailers have been taken by surprise by the decision, with some warning the move will cost them more – partly to produce paper bags and also because of short-term lost sales if shoppers leave empty-handed without wanting to buy a reusable bag for their purchases.

The ban, which was supported by a vote of 27-17, calls for the city “to prohibit all City of Toronto retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar.”

News of the ban drew a quick response from the Toronto-based Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA). “While we’re pleased that the bag bylaw has been rescinded, the ban seems to have come from nowhere, without any forethought or discourse, and it’s a shock,” CPIA president and CEO Carol Hochu told Canadian Plastics. “We are going to look at all of the available options, including the legality of the ban. As it stands now, this is a lose/lose decision – 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; and retailers are losing because they’ll have to offer their customers a replacement to the plastic bags.”

Last month, Los Angeles became the largest city in the U.S. to pass a ban on plastic bags, which will be phased in over 12 months at an estimated 7,500 retailers. A year after the ban kicks in, retailers will be forced to charge 10 cents for paper bags.


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