Quebec | Sustainability

Plastic Bags

Plastic Bags

Banning of plastic bags in Québec (city of Montréal, Brossard and 80 other municipalities around Montréal) and certain cities in British Columbia notably the City of Victoria and the City of Vancouver.

Montréal: City of Montréal has officially received the report from the Environment Commission that recommended banning thinner bags (less than 50 microns). The City now has 90 days (as of January 12, 2016) to respond to the report. They indicated they foresee tabling regulation by April 2016 for implementation in 2018 (not definitive).

Brossard (on the South Shore of Montreal): The regulation is already tabled. Adoption is scheduled for February 2016 for implementation September 2016.

Other municipalities around Montréal, part of the Montréal Metropolitan Community (CMM): The CMM has adopted a motion in December 2015, indicating all 82 municipalities agree to regulate, overtime. To date, two municipalities have indicated publicly that they will regulate. Furthermore, the Montréal Metropolitan Community has dedicated a staff to this issue, most likely to prepare a regulation for the 82 municipalities comprised in this group.

City of Victoria: It is expected that City staff will present a bylaw to Council in the spring of 2016 to ban single-use plastic bags.

City of Vancouver: The City is expected to consider how to manage the file this spring as well (2016). Vancouver’s proposal may not be limited to bags and could include other single-use items such as Styrofoam plates, beverage cups, plastic utensils and coffee pods.


  • Indicate that there is no need to ban plastic bags.
  • Demonstrate that our members are already committed to reducing plastic bags and will continue to do so.
  • Recommend that the City of Montréal create a joint industry/city committee to develop viable solutions to reduce litter caused by plastic bags.
  • Advocate for a harmonized approach to any changes regarding plastic bags.
  • Hold individual meetings with Councillors in Montreal, Brossard, Victoria and Vancouver to outline industry efforts to voluntarily reduce distribution of plastic bags.

RCC Next Steps:

For Québec:
Over the course of January and February 2016, RCC will undertake the following actions:

  • Meet with the Mayor of Brossard to request they suspend the adoption of the regulation planned for February 16, 2016, and work with industry. This includes contacting City Councillors, media if required, and preparing a template letter for members to send to the mayor.
  • Meet with key City of Montreal Councillors and Montreal Metropolitan Community.
  • RCC will be reaching out to members, with key messages to support these meetings. RCC will organize a member call, the week of Feb. 18, to implement this strategy.
  • Propose key media messages and messages for members (see below)

The goal of this strategy is to advocate for a deferral on the decision to ban and agreement to work with industry to develop alternatives.

For British-Columbia:
Updated messages will be developed for British Columbia which will be developed based on the outcome of RCC’s efforts in Montreal and Brossard, and by taking into account the difference in solid waste programs between Québec and British Columbia.

It should be noted that some councillors in both cities hold pro-ban positions and it is expected that RCC will have to provide evidence on the effectiveness of industry efforts to reduce distribution of plastic bags to demonstrate that by-laws are not required.

  • Meet with City of Victoria and City of Vancouver Councillors.

To support these objectives, RCC has prepared the following messages that will be used in our communication in Montreal/Brossard and the Montréal Metropolitan Community:


  • RCC is opposed to the current proposals regarding the outright ban of plastic bags and the narrower recommendation to ban thinner plastic bags since voluntary initiatives being taken by industry are successful in reducing distribution of plastic bags.
  • Assuming consumers will entirely replace plastic bags with reusable bags is not realistic. Consumers want these bags for their garbage rather than buy new ones.
  • RCC members are aware of the environmental concerns and recommends that a working group be established, which would include representatives from the Economic Development Branch to ensure both environmental and business impacts are taken into consideration. The mandate would be to develop solutions with the industry.
  • Plastic bags have a low environmental foot print, as per available studies.
    The Retail industry has reduced significantly the number of bags in circulation, more than 50% in most Canadian provinces. Some of our members continue charging consumers for bags, to reduce consumption and they also offer reusable bags to their customers. These types of voluntary programs are working to reduce distribution of plastic bags, and efforts will continue.
  • Bags are reused from 60% to 80% of the time largely for household garbage.
  • Bags are recycled where facilities exist (collection, sorting and conditioning).
  • Banning thinner bags would only increase the amount of plastic in landfills as bags that remain on the market, used for household garbage, will be thicker.
  • Plastic bags are recyclable and the retail industry compensates municipalities for the collection, transportation and sorting (blue box) of this material. In addition, this material is valuable to recyclers and is resold to help offset costs associated with running recycling programs.
  • Not all municipalities are collecting bags as part of their recycling programs nor are they all ensuring that sorting facilities have the proper equipment to sort plastic bags correctly and efficiently – this should be done first, before any ban.
  • In order to reduce bags in landfill, municipalities need to increase the collection of organic waste to decrease the need for garbage bags.
  • Municipalities must undertake a public education program to ensure consumers are aware that bags can be recycled.
  • The plastic industry is not able at this time to provide thicker bags (50 microns or more, as requested by some municipalities).
  • If required, any plastic bag by-laws or regulations must be adopted at the provincial level to avoid a patchwork of regulations.

About the author

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has been the Voice of Retail in Canada since 1963. We speak for an industry that touches the daily lives of Canadians in every corner of the country — by providing jobs, career opportunities, and by investing in the communities we serve.

Be heard. Save money. Stay informed.

Become a member