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10 reasons to ban plastic bags in Toronto - Toronto Star

June 9, 2012
Franz Hartmann
Toronto Star

The ban on disposable plastic bags by the City of Toronto came out of the blue for many Torontonians. On Wednesday, city councillors started the day thinking they were discussing Mayor Rob Ford’s proposal to get rid of the 5-cent bag fee retailers charged customers (the fee went to the retailer, not the city). By the end of the day, 27 councillors voted to ban disposable plastic bags.

Mayor Ford thinks the ban is “ludicrous.” Along with the 27 councillors, we beg to differ. The Toronto Environmental Alliance has been campaigning for a disposable plastic bag ban for years. Because of the speed of the decision, few Torontonians got a chance to really understand why a ban is a good idea. Here are 10 reasons why we think it’s a great idea:

  1. It’s good for the environment. A ban means more people will use reusable bags. That means we won’t be wasting precious non-renewable resources like oil to make plastic bags or create the pollution that comes from manufacturing and disposing of plastic bags. I’ve used the same reusable bag for over 20 years (I throw it in with my laundry regularly) and have avoided using thousands of disposable bags because of this one reusable bag. For those who care about animals, no more disposable plastic bags is good news for wildlife, too, who often suffer from plastic bags polluting their habitat.
  2. It will save Torontonians money. Figures from city staff suggest the 5-cent fee cut bag use by 50 per cent and recycling costs to the city by at least $100,000. A ban will likely add another $100,000 in savings from reduced recycling and disposal costs. Add to this the savings from reduced litter collection costs and we’re up to over $200,000 saved.
  3. It will reduce litter. Plastic bags litter city streets, get caught in tree branches and float in rivers, streams and the lake. A ban will virtually eliminate this litter.
  4. Torontonians are ready for it. Since the 5-cent fee started, use of disposable plastic bags has fallen anywhere from 53 per cent to 80 per cent, according to various studies. Most Torontonians have switched to reusable bags and have made it clear they don’t need disposable plastic bags.
  5. We can learn from other cities and countries that already have bans. Italy, Australian states, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Malibu, Santa Monica and many other cities and towns have banned disposable plastic bags. We’ve got six months to learn from them how to make the ban work properly.
  6. Your green bin will be happy. The best thing for your green bin is to use paper bags or newspaper to take your organics from your kitchen to the outdoor bin. Fewer plastic bags in the green bin means better compost and saves money.
  7. You’ll feel better cleaning up after your dog. Disposable plastic bags are notorious for breaking, especially after you’ve picked up after your pet. Now you will have a reason to start using sturdier bread, bagel, and all the other plastic bags you usually throw out.
  8. Your home will be neater. Every home I know has a special place where plastic bags end up, usually a junk drawer or closet. No more bags means no more mess.
  9. We’ll support local workers and green industries. In east end Toronto, Atlantic Packaging takes paper products from our blue bin and turns them into paper bags. Using these paper bags — when you need them — means supporting local workers and a local green business.
  10. We can now start focusing on other bigger waste diversion challenges. City council had a target to achieve 70 per cent waste diversion by 2010. Unfortunately, we are stuck at just above 50 per cent. That’s because more than half of Toronto’s households — those who live in highrises — still don’t have green bins. Now that we have a bag ban, council can focus on helping get green bins into apartment buildings and meeting our waste diversion target.

Franz Hartmann is executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

As originally published here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/1208691--10-reasons-to-ban-plastic-bags-in-toronto

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