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Thread: Toronto city council bans plastic bag and may be water bottles next

  1. #1
    Apr 2007

    Toronto city council bans plastic bag and may be water bottles next

    Shoppers react to plastic bag ban: Great idea but what about the ‘drippy slabs of meat?’

    Chris McDonald is all for city council’s plastic bag ban. He thinks it will condition shoppers to remember their reusable totes.

    Shoppers like himself.

    “Usually I bring my own, but funnily enough, we stopped here for two things,” said the charity executive, gesturing at the half-dozen plastic bags filling his shopping cart as he left a downtown supermarket Wednesday evening with his kids.

    “We actually came here for what, tomatoes?”

    “And cheese,” finished his daughter Caleigh, 12.

    McDonald represented one of the two most common reactions to Wednesday’s surprise vote: entirely supportive, and entirely regretful to have forgotten those reusable bags in the car, at home, or at work.

    “Awesome. I think it’s awesome,” agreed Catharine MacIntosh, an artist and entrepreneur, leaving the same downtown supermarket with her mom and brother — all carrying plastic shopping bags.

    “That’s really embarrassing,” she said, laughing. “I have my own bags at home.”

    “I do too,” said her brother.

    “I do too. I have three of them,” said their mother (but visiting from Calgary, so with a good excuse).

    The other most common reaction was a mix of disbelief and irritation.

    “They did? OK. That’s interesting,” said Bonnie Crawford-Bewley, learning of the surprise motion that had passed not an hour earlier. “That’s going to be a pain in the neck,” she said, adding she had supported the 5-cent fee.

    May Cheng was carrying three reusable totes. “What are you going to do with slopping drippy slabs of meat in your shopping bag?” she wondered.

    “I use a few (plastic) bags for things like taking out the Kitty Litter and stuff. You can’t live without plastic bags. We’re going to end up buying them.”

    Paul Taylor agreed. “There is a utility there,” he said. “Sometimes you forget. It’s just not practical to totally ban them.”

    But some wondered if council should go further.

    “Plastic: bad. Ban: good,” said Raelen Trevis. “Maybe they should ban water bottles, too.”


    I understand that plastic bags and water bottles never breakdown in nature but could they not burn it in a recycling plant? It seems the greenpeace movement has take over most of city hall and government in Canada and they contradict them self by supporting the car companies that are slow to move to electric or hybrid cars and support the big oil companies and power stations that run on fossil fuels.

    And most every thing you buy in the store or stuff in your home is plastic !!! This is really silly you know banning plastic that will put everyone in the dark age like before in the past !! Most things are now plastic !!! The plastic bags and water bottles are small percent of most things that are now plastic .

    I don't know how city council would vote on this with no public poll or public opinion this seems non democracy.

    It will be interesting to see what will come of this.

  2. #2
    With all the budget cuts and huge demand for funding of subways\streetcars in Toronto, I wonder why they did not opt to tax per bag instead.

  3. #3
    Best comment:

    Watch Your Step!
    The sidewalks of Toronto will soon be litterred with doggie do-do. Watch your step!

  4. #4
    May 2012
    Enschede, The Netherlands
    Why not to use biodegradable plastic bags - they are bit more expensive but do not cause long term problems for the environment - in Europe many shops only have this bags

  5. #5
    Aug 2005
    Forest Hills, NY

    pragmatic politics isn't the issue

    I wrote a blog post about plastic awhile ago: http://www.planetizen.com/node/40870

    I don't think the occasional demonization of one consumer product or another has much to do with solving concrete environmental problems. Realistically, plastic is such a big part of our lives that banning plastic XYZ won't make much of a difference.

    Rather, command-and-control legislation is an act of environmental piety- affluent consumers trying to show their virtue and salve their consciences.

  6. #6
    Jul 2011

    Long Beach

    I was in Long Beach, California recently. They have an ordinance there where plastic bags are not permitted. They use a sturdier paper bag, if you do not have reusable bags.

    It might be a good idea.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    I’m really surprised you think that the plastic bag and plastic bottle issue is so minor! Its such a big deal workdwide that many cities and even countries (Scotland, for example) have completely banned plastic shopping bags, with bottled water not far behind.

    Portland, coastal North Carolina, Mexico City, Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Karwar, Tirumala, Vasco, and Rajasthan, Modbury (England), Rangoon (Bruma), the countries of Scotland, Bangladesh and Rwanda, and twelve towns in Australia have all banned plastic bags. So, this is really nothing new. I’m sure there are more places as well.

    Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year – that’s 400 every SECOND!!!! Worldwide, the estimate is 1 TRILLION. The inks in some bags contain lead. They are not generally recycled as they jam up the machinery. California (as the only state I found stats for) spends $25 million annually to control plastic bag waste alone (out of $303 million annual litter abatement budget). Southern California cities in total have spent $1.7 billion dollars to date meeting their Maximum Daily Loads for trash in impaired waterways to which plastic bags are a huge contributor. Plastic bags that end up in the ocean also create lots of problems.

    And that’s just the bags. For bottles, an estimated 2,480,000 tons were thrown away in 2008 alone. They are the number one pollutant found and collected on California beaches. Guess what number 2 is? Plastic bags. 60 billion single-use drink containers were purchased in 2006, ¾ of which were discarded after use. Bottled water is the single largest growth area among all beverages, that includes alcohol, juices and soft drinks. And clear plastic bottles contain BPA which is a highly problematic component found mainly in clear plastics, and less so in the plastics used in durable goods (your TVs and cars, etc.) With that much BPA ending up in a landfill, there are serious concerns about leaching into the water supply. And in the US, recycling rates across the country are nowhere close to dealing with the volumes of plastic bottles discarded, most of which are consumed away from home where there may not be a recycling container accessible.

    I think the maintenance/recycling/clean-up costs associated with these items alone justify a ban, especially in cities that have limited landfill space and less than adequate recycling facilities. And that does not even take into consideration the environmental costs.

    To the issue of taxing to de-incentivize use, Scotland did a lot of studies in advance of their ban (with also lots of public education) and they found that paying extra for a plastic bag was a bigger incentive to not use plastic than (as many US stores do) giving a credit for bringing your own. The idea is you are being “punished” as it were for using plastic as opposed to “rewarded” for a reusable bag. For whatever reason, that seems to jive better with human behavior.

    Yes, lots and lots of things are made of plastic. But plastic is also a durable material and comes in many forms, some of which are more problematic than others. Treating it like a throw away item when it degrades so slowly contributes remarkably to the waste stream (and is derived from petroleum, a limited resource) seems irresponsible and also a bit like rolling over and giving up. A durable plastic object, while problematic, gets used and reused and takes longer to enter the waste stream. Its also about the physical form the plastic bag in particular takes which allows it to get caught up in air streams or waterways and is difficult to dispose of.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    In Ontario, milk comes in plastic bags. How is that going to work out? They going to cartons or jugs?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    In Ontario, milk comes in plastic bags. How is that going to work out? They going to cartons or jugs?
    I think the ban is just on plastic shopping bags. The milk bags are a mixed blessing, environment-wise. On the one hand, they use 75% less plastic than a plastic milk jug holding the same volume. So, the overall trash volume is much less as is weight and, therefore, shipping costs. When you consider a fraction of recyclable items actually are recycled, this could have a big impact on landfill space. But these bags are not like your typical shopping bag. They actually have many sub layers and are made in a rather complicated process and I am not sure they are actually cheaper to produce than your typical milk carton or plastic jug. Apparently they are recyclable, though. But do they also clog machines for example? I really don't know.

    FTR, when I was in Uganda in the mid 1990s, all local milk was sold in bags. That was the first time I ever saw that and now it is apparently catching on elsewhere.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  10. #10
    Jul 2010
    Eastern Canada
    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post
    With all the budget cuts and huge demand for funding of subways\streetcars in Toronto, I wonder why they did not opt to tax per bag instead.
    They had a $0.05 fee for each plastic bag. The Odious Mayor Rob Ford brought a motion to remove the fee on the bags. In a big "middle finger" to Ford some members of Council said, "Okay, we'll get rid of the fee by getting rid of the bags altogether."

  11. #11
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    I actually researched the whole "bag ban" phenomenon at the request of our city council. These were some the reasons to/not to regulate plastic bags:

    Reasons to Ban:
    • “Perpetually Airborne” litter problem
    • Long Decomposition time for plastics
    • Endanger wildlife
    • Pollute waterways & clog drainage systems
    • Jam recycling machines
    • Low recycling rate of plastic bags compared to paper
    • Paper bags have much higher recycled content
    • Paper decomposes easily and can be composted
    • Paper bags are more expensive, but sturdier with fewer needed
    • Paper is a more readily renewable resource
    • Public Works crew spends significant time cleaning up the bags near the major shopping centers
    • Unsightly and difficult to clean-up

    In Defense of the Plastic Bag:
    • Plastic bags are convenient and give consumers choices
    • Industry encourages the reuse of bags and provides recycling opportunities at stores
    • Can be more sanitary than cloth bags, which may rarely be washed and can absorb bacteria (both OK and pathogenic)
    • Ease of reuse – trashcan liners, lunch bags, pet waste (40%-50% are reused in this manner
    • Paper bags cost 4x-5x the cost of plastic bags
    • Plastic bags are less resource intensive to produce: 96% less water than paper used in manufacturing; 70% less energy than paper used in manufacturing
    • Reusable bags are often non-woven material that is not recyclable
    • Plastic bags from frequently exempt uses, like fast food and C-stores are more likely to end up as litter
    • Unfairly maligned – plastic bags are a small portion of the overall litter problem and bans simply remove one item in the litterers’ arsenals

    A lot of the bans started in places with a significant problem with plastic bags appearing in waterways. However, a few more interesting reasons have popped up. For example, in a West Texas city (hardly a hotbed of environmentalism) they chose to pursue the ban because public works employees & road cleanup volunteers were tired of getting jabbed by cactus when trying to pluck the plastic bags off of them.

    My city decided it wasn't the right time for us to pursue a bag ban or fee, mainly because other alternatives had not been pursued. We've adopted a strategy that will take the following progressive steps until we are satisfied with the effectiveness:
    • Putting more teeth into the local littering ordinance (or in our case, actually adopting a litter ordinance)
    • Litter abatement fee
    • Creating a fee for plastic bags, but waiving that fee if a retailer offers a discount/credit to customers that bring reusable bags
    • Full ban on plastic bags

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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