In June 2022, the Canadian government passed a ban on some single-use plastics - including plastic bags, cutlery, foam and black plastic containers.
While the federal plastic ban is limited to only 6 items, it’s a good first step, and it will have a big impact on reducing disposables from Canadian restaurants and stores. This is an important opportunity to help businesses and our communities make the shift away from all disposables and towards the most sustainable zero-waste option: reusables!
The first phase - a ban on manufacturing and importing some items - starts in December 2022. But we’ll really see the benefits a year from now when the ban will expand to the sale of those items.
What does the Canadian ban on single-use plastics mean for Toronto businesses and customers?
Starting in December 2023, every restaurant, cafe, cafeteria and store will have to stop selling or giving out:
- single-use plastic bags
- plastic cutlery and stir sticks
- plastic containers made of foam or black plastic
Single-use plastic straws will be banned starting in June 2024. (Note: The ban includes important exceptions for flexible straws for accessibility reasons, and exemptions for health care settings and social service agencies.)
It’s estimated this will prevent 28.2 billion single-use plastic items from being produced or used - avoiding upstream oil and gas impacts and the downstream impacts on the environment. Read the government's statement here.
What will we use instead of the banned items?
Unfortunately, some companies are promoting ‘compostable’ and ‘bioplastic’ options as a false solution to avoid plastic and keep on with business as usual. However, these materials can have just as big of an environmental impact. Single-use materials still require incredible resources to create, including natural resource extraction, just to be used once. Many also contain toxic additives to make them plastic-like - for example greaseproof coatings. Finally, "compostable" or "bioplastic" options largely end up the garbage since they can't be processed by most commercial and municipal composting facilities - including in Toronto’s Green Bin.
The real solution and opportunity: reuse.
To be ready for the federal single-use plastic ban, and municipal regulations on other single-use items, we need to push for the real solutions that will reduce waste, lower costs and benefit the environment: reuse.
Instead of single-use items, restaurants and food services can provide reusables. For example, using reusable mugs and dishes for dine-in orders, letting customers bring their own travel mugs, or providing reusable take-out containers customers can borrow (like Muuse and Suppli). These systems are growing in popularity and are even being required by law in other cities and countries.
Toronto’s Single-Use Reduction Strategy
Right now, the City of Toronto is also working on the issue of disposables and getting ready for the second phase of its Single-Use Reduction Strategy (currently in a voluntary education phase). The City is planning to pass regulations to restrict and discourage single-use bags, cups and accessories (like cutlery, condiments and napkins). Notably, the City’s regulation will encompass all material types, not just plastic.
To see more reuse solutions, check out the Reusable Toronto website for the solutions we’re pushing for in Toronto - a shift to sustainable, non-toxic reusables instead of disposables.
The federal ban list is limited, and TEA will continue to work with other NGOs to advocate for expanding the list and putting a stronger focus on supporting reuse and refill systems in the national plastic strategy.