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Industry calls on city to scrap new waste plan

As published on: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081105.TRASH05/TPStor...

Sweeping measures aimed at sharp reduction in retail packaging are unnecessary and 'wrongheaded,' critics say

November 5, 2008

A far-reaching city plan to force retailers to reward customers who shun plastic bags and disposable coffee cups, announced yesterday, sparked immediate fury from industry.

The unprecedented measures, part of Toronto's ambitious bid to divert 70 per cent of waste from landfill by 2010, would require retailers to give a 10-cent-a-bag discount to customers using refillable bags instead of plastic.

Fast-food outlets would have to give a break of 20 cents a cup to coffee lovers who bring their own mug, not a disposable cup.

Violators who break the rules could face fines of $100 to $400 per transaction under proposals that go to council next month.

The widely anticipated recommendations aimed at reducing the use of in-store packaging set the city on a collision course with industry, including fast-food giants like Tim Hortons, whose current coffee cup is recycled in some cities but not Toronto.

Changing the familiar coated paper cup and plastic lid is a "non-starter," said Nick Javor, vice-president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons, expressing no enthusiasm to cater to the environmental demands of Canada's biggest city.

"What's the scientific rationale for this?" he asked. " ... We're not going to change our current cup. It's recyclable."

City officials say they cannot guarantee the Tim Hortons plastic lid won't contaminate the paper recycling stream in Toronto, which processes far more recycling material than other cities.

The sharp response to the proposals pits conservation activists against retailers and food industry officials, setting the stage for the biggest environmental battle at city hall since a 2004 council ban on cosmetic use of pesticides.

"It's a good plan for Torontonians," Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. "It puts the onus on businesses, who've been creating a huge amount of packaging waste."

But a restaurant industry spokeswoman criticized the city for recommending "bans and hidden taxes" that she says would hurt businesses. "The city of Toronto's recommendations are wrongheaded," said Stephanie Jones, Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Foodservices and Restaurant Association. "They will do nothing to improve diversion."

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre), an outspoken environmentalist who is chairman of council's works committee, said the two-year-old City of Toronto Act gives the necessary authority to require businesses to offer financial rewards to environmentally conscious consumers.

He cited other controversial city bylaws, including anti-smoking rules and the pesticide ban, that have survived court challenges.

But Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) warned "the city has gone down a very dangerous path where it is trying to regulate the economic relationship between a purchaser and a vendor.

"... It would set a terrible precedent for the way the city could invade people's lives," he said.

Even grocery stores that now charge customers five cents for a plastic bag will have to conform to the bylaw if it is approved by council.

Mr. De Baeremaeker contends that the time for voluntary moves by industry is long past. "The approach so far hasn't worked," he said. "That's why we're drowning in a sea of garbage."

Waste away
A city report proposes sweeping measures, subject to council approval, to reduce the volume of garbage going to landfill.


Here are some key proposals:

Plastic bags

  • Retailers must offer a discount to consumers who use their own bags, amounting to 10 cents for each plastic bag saved.
  • Retailers must accept the use of refillable bags or containers.
  • Blue bins accept retail plastic bags, effective Dec. 8.

Coffee and hot-drink cups

  • Retailers must fill reusable mugs and offer a 20-cent-a-cup minimum discount for refillable cups.
  • Ban on coffee cups and lids made of plastic or other materials not recycled by the city.

Plastic water bottles

  • Immediate ban on sale or distribution at Toronto's seven civic centres, with other city facilities added by the end of 2011.

Take-out food containers

  • Industry must develop reusable or refillable take-out food containers by Dec. 31, 2010.
  • Ban on any plastic containers not compatible with the city's blue-bin program effective Dec. 31, 2009.
  • Blue bin accepts foam polystyrene (clam-shells, meat trays, protective packaging for television or computer).

Batteries, paint cans, bulbs

  • Mobile pick-up and other options for apartments and homes.

Industry calls on city to scrap new waste plan Nov 5 2008.pdf64.54 KB