Plastic bag ban: Toronto to hear public, retailers

Oct 5, 2012 | News

Toronto city council will hear out concerns before single-use plastic bags are banned next year. PHOTO BY HELEN SURGENOR

By Helen Surgenor

The City of Toronto is calling for retailers and members of the public to weigh in on the plastic bag ban at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting next month.

“We had public hearings [in 2008] and we heard what the industry wanted, and we heard what the public wanted, and we tried to take some action then, ” Coun. David Shiner, who introduced the ban, told Humber News.

“The issue now is that it’s come up in council again without allowing people to make a comment again—and there should always be an opportunity for people to have some input.”

Council decided to seek public input Thursday, after a controversial motion to re-open the decision to ban plastic bags failed.

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association and the Canadian Plastics Industry have been vocal opponents of the ban – going so far as to threaten to sue the city.

“We are disappointed that the city did not decide to re-open the plastic bag issue and are presently meeting with legal counsel to explore any/all options available to small businesses in Toronto,” David Bryans, president of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, told Humber News.

Shiner said the plastic bag industry is a significant lobby group that makes money from the 250 million plastic bags that end up in Toronto’s landfills each year.

“It’s a little ridiculous that they don’t want to work with us, they want to threaten a lawsuit,” he said. “They want to challenge council’s right to work on behalf of the public.”

For Rajani San, who runs a Mac’s convenience store on Humber College Boulevard and Highway 27, having bags available at the till for her customers is an important part of the convenience her store offers patrons, she said.

“If there’s a bag, we just put everything inside and give it to the customer,” she said. “If they don’t have a bag… it takes a longer time, and the line up gets longer.”

Most citizens however, appear willing to sacrifice convenience in the name of the environment—even after Mayor Rob Ford compelled people to register complaints with their councillor, said Shiner.

“I got eight telephone calls from the public,” he said.

“It’s only the industry that’s trying to keep the money flowing to its pocket.”