On June 19 2013, the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee voted against a plastic bag ban or plastic bag fee to reduce disposable plastic shopping bags for Toronto.
The Committee reviewed a detailed staff report outlining actions the City could take to reduce plastic bag use, including a plastic bag ban, or reintroducing a plastic bag fee, based on almost 6 months of public and stakeholder consultation. The Committee decided against a bag ban or bag fee and voted to start an extensive public education campaign.
TEA staff spoke to the Committee, pointing out that the plastic bag fee worked, and that a bag ban was welcomed by most Torontonians. The City staff report noted:
the Plastic Bag Fee reduced bag use by over 50%
since the Bag Fee was cancelled last July, bags in the waste stream have increased by 26%
Unfortunately, this vote means that Toronto has taken a big step backward in reducing waste. TEA will continue to push for greater waste reduction and waste diversion at City Hall.
Background on the Plastic Bag Ban and Bag Fee
In November 2012, a draft by-law to enforce a plastic bag ban on all disposable plastic bags in Toronto was turned down by City Council. The by-law was rejected as a result of a variety of legal threats and challenges from the plastics industry.
At the November 2012 meeting, Council voted instead to consult the public and stakeholders on other options to reduce bag use.
The rejection of the by-law effectively overturns a June 2012 Council decision to ban all single-use shopping bags starting in January 2013. At the same June 2012 meeting, Council voted to end the successful plastic bag fee of 5 cents on all disposable plastic shopping bags.
In addition to the loss of the bag fee, this means Toronto has taken some major steps backwards for the environment.