At the June 3rd Moncton City Council meeting, Councillors unanimously gave first reading to a bylaw that would restrict businesses from distributing some single use plastic bags (referred to as plastic checkout bags) by July 2020. In an attempt to encourage the use of reusable bags, the bylaw would also mandate businesses to ask and confirm that a customer needs a checkout bag and if so:
- only provide a paper checkout bag
- charge a fee to customers that want to access a paper checkout bag
- allow customers to bring their own reusable bags.
The fee for a paper checkout bag would be set and controlled by retailers.
The prohibition / fee only applies to checkout bags. Reusable bags will still be able to be sold or given to retail customers. The proposed bylaw defines a reusable bag as a bag with handles; designed and manufactured to be capable of at least 100 uses and primarily made of cloth or other durable material suitable for use. RCC has received clarification that a polypropylene bag is considered a reusable bag.
The bylaw introduction by the City of Moncton is not a surprise as the city, along with the neighbouring City of Dieppe and Town of Riverview have worked with RCC on this issue for almost 18 months.
RCC is generally supportive of this proposed bylaw as it would be harmonized with the legislation in Prince Edward Island while also allowing retailers to set and control the fee that would be charged on paper checkout bags.
Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview were intent on passing bylaws to ban plastic checkout bags and they had strong public support for such action. In early 2018, RCC realized that there was little chance to stop such bylaws and thus, RCC spent its time working with the three municipal units to protect retailer interests. RCC insisted that any bylaws be harmonized with best practices (e.g. PEI), allow for appropriate exemptions and allow twelve months lead time for retailers to use up their existing stock of plastic checkout bags before the bylaw would be enforced.
Following 18 months of hard work, RCC is pleased to report the following:
- The proposed bylaw for Moncton is generally harmonized with the pertinent parts of the legislation passed in PEI in 2018 (see small exception below).
- The bylaw would allow for paper and plastic bag exemptions (see list below) and the exemptions would be harmonized with the exemptions listed in the PEI legislation.
- Businesses must charge a fee for customers to access paper checkout bags, but businesses get to set a fee that works best for their business / businesses will control the fee.
- The proposed bylaw simply states that a paper bag should be made out of paper that is recyclable. This is important as it avoids the challenge faced by retailers in Victoria, BC. In Victoria, City Council mandated that retailers must source paper checkout bags with a certified recycled content. These bags are difficult to source within North America.
- Moncton’s proposed bylaw should be passed before the end of June 2019. If passed, the bylaw will not come into effect until July 2020.
- Dieppe and Riverview will likely introduce bylaws this month. The bylaws will be harmonized with Moncton’s bylaw.
Violations of the Moncton bylaw could result in a fine between $140 and $2,100. The city’s bylaw officer will enforce the bylaw by responding to complaints.
City of Moncton: exemptions to the paper checkout bag fee / plastic checkout bag ban are as follows:
Paper Checkout Bags:
Small paper bags are exempt from a fee (less than 15cm X 20cm)
Plastic Checkout Bags:
- hold loose bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains or candy
- hold loose small hardware items such as nails and bolts
- contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, poultry or fish, whether pre-packaged or not
- wrap flowers or potted plants
- protect prepared foods or bakery goods that aren’t pre-packaged
- contain prescription drugs from a pharmacy
- transport live fish
- protect linens, bedding or other similar large items that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag
- protect newspapers or other printed material to be left at a person’s home or business
- protect clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning
- protect tires that cannot easily fit in a reusable bag
NOTE: these exemptions are exactly the same as the exemptions allowed for PEI.
The only differences between the exemptions in the Moncton bylaw and the PEI legislation:
- Moncton will allow the use of plastic checkout bags to collect and dispose of animal waste
PEI’s legislation allows plastic checkout bags to be used to:
- package medical supplies and items used in the provision of health services
Retail Council of Canada (RCC) will use the major aspects of the Moncton bylaw and the PEI legislation as templates for other municipal and provincial governments to follow. Members should understand that this action will only be taken, if RCC believes that these governments cannot be convinced to use less intrusive methods to diminish the public’s use of plastic and paper checkout bags.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at: [email protected] or (902) 422-4144