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Mayor predicts many amendments to controversial packaging-waste bill

AsĀ  published in the globeandmail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081107.TRASH07/TPStor...

November 7, 2008

As business and environmental advocates dig in over city proposals to reduce packaging waste, Mayor David Miller predicts myriad amendments when the controversial issue hits council next month.

"There will be 45 different opinions on council," he said yesterday. "I imagine there will be all sorts of motions coming forward."

The mayor broadly supports a staff report released this week that recommends action by business - including a 20-cent reward to coffee drinkers who use their own mugs and a 10-cent-a-bag refund when customers shun plastic bags - to reduce up to 10,000 tonnes of consumer packaging waste that now goes to landfill.

While praising council's "environmental" orientation, Mr. Miller is not yet leading the charge on the issue, leaving that job to works committee chairman Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) and key allies such as Councillor Gord Perks.

With the works committee set to debate the proposals next week, one member expressed "disappointment" that the report reflects little of the work of an in-store packaging "working group" of councillors, city staff, industry and environmental groups that met over the past year.

"I was ostensibly part of that process but I was not part of the development of the recommendations that came forward," said Councillor John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West).

"I saw the city indicate it has its goal [diverting 70 per cent of garbage from landfill by 2010] and I heard the industry groups come forward with their ideas. ..." he said.

"But I didn't detect a whole lot of interest on the part of city in response to those suggestions."

Mr. Perks, also in the group, said the discussions led to little industry action. "I was disappointed with what they brought forward," he said. "I was surprised a company of the size of Tim Hortons can't manufacture a cup that can be recycled or composted in our system."

Yesterday, Tim Hortons senior vice-president of corporate affairs Nick Javor reiterated his firm's position there is no need to modify its coated-paper cup and plastic lid to meet Toronto's rules.

"We are comfortable with our current packaging line because it is working," he said, noting that Windsor-Essex and other jurisdictions accept the cup and lid in recycling programs.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Environmental Alliance and like-minded groups will be at the committee next week to press for tougher rules - including a full ban on plastic bags - than those proposed by staff.

"Businesses have had years and years to take responsibility for this packaging waste and they have not stepped up to the plate," said TEA executive director Franz Hartmann. "So it is not surprising the city is doing it."

Works committee member Chin Lee (Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River) said he views the report's recommendations as "a bit premature," and said he has been inundated with calls from interest groups on both sides of the issue.

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