On June 6 the City of Toronto passed two motions.

1) To prohibit all retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar as of January 1, 2013. 

2) Rescinded the five cent plastic bag fee effective July 1, 2012. Retailers are no longer required to charge for single-use plastic bags, but can do so on a voluntary basis.

The City of Toronto's actions have resulted in other provincial and municipal jurisdictions across the country announcing their intention to consider a ban.

Background:

The 5 cent plastic bag fee bylaw has been in effect since June 2009 and was intended to assist the City in diverting 70 per cent of waste from landfills. During this time, the bylaw has proven to be a success as retailers have reduced plastic bag usage by about 70 per cent over the last couple of years. There are many examples of retailers having channeled the funds collected to worthwhile environmental and local community causes.

Over the last year and a half, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has been actively advocating for the retention of the 5 cent plastic bag fee. RCC has been meeting with City Councillors and staff to educate them on the positive benefits of the fee. 

Since the City of Toronto's announcement banning the plastic bag, RCC has been the industry voice on this issue and has done multiple media interviews describing the impact of the ban and the rescinding of the 5 cent fee. RCC responses have been as follows:

    The ban was implemented without consultation or understanding of the impact on retailers and their consumers.
    The existing 5 cent fee was a more effective and flexible tool to limit plastic bag use.
    RCC assumes that City of Toronto Councillors have researched the City's legal authority to implement the ban and as such RCC is not planning to launch a legal challenge.

Next Steps:

RCC will work with Toronto city staff to ensure the bylaw appropriately defines the single- use bag parameters and that the needs of consumers are addressed while ensuring the outcomes are effective for business operations. Key issues that will be discussed include:

    Enforcement protocol.
    Ensuring the ban is limited to single-use carry out bags and does not cover produce bags, kitchen catchers and other similar items.

Members need to ensure that they will be in a position to provide consumers with alternatives to the current single-use plastic bag. 

RCC is working with other jurisdictions that have indicated plans to consider a ban including the Regional Municipality of Halifax and Vancouver. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact: Gary Rygus, Director, Government Relations at: [email protected] or (416) 922-6678, ext. 225.