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Council Kills Plastic Bag Fee, Also Bans Plastic Bags

Long debate leaves heads spinning as councillors decide to not only rescind the five cent plastic bag fee, but also ban plastic bags themselves.


Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) played this video for her council colleagues during a day-long debate about repealing the plastic bag fee.

Rob Ford began today hoping that his colleagues would agree to rescind the five cent plastic bag fee. It was unclear whether he had the votes—many progressive councillors resisted, saying that the policy was working (as evidenced by the fact that plastic bag use has declined dramatically since that fee’s introduction) and that the environmental benefits were worth preserving.

Ford won, in the end—though it’s hard to say he’ll go home feeling happy. While council acceded to his bid to kill the fee on plastic bags, in an unexpected twist, they also voted to ban plastic bags themselves. As of January 1, 2013, retailers will be prohibited “from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar.”

It’s a major loss for the mayor, who came out strongly opposed to the fee, and made a rare speech on the floor of council on the subject. (Opening of that speech: “Has it been a success? Absolutely it has. But it is really irritating people.”) It was also an unexpected one, unlike earlier losses on the budget and transit, emerging frenetically from a long debate which most of the time seemed remarkable only for being so predictable. And then came the motions to ban bags outright: first one from progressive councillor Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8, York West) with a start date of January 2014, and much more surprisingly, another from David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale), who sits on the mayor’s Executive Committee and is generally an ally of Ford’s, to start much sooner, January 2013. That latter motion is the one that passed, by a vote of 24-20—especially surprising since a few minutes earlier, councillors had decided that the recommendation to kill the bag fee should stand.

In short, observers who expected councillors to be both in favour of the fee (which provides one type of limit on bag use) and in favour of a ban (which precludes getting them entirely) were confounded, as they killed the fee but enacted the ban. The bottom line message was that if bags are problematic, we should ban them, not empower retailers to profit from their sale.

Ford left the council chamber shortly after the vote. His advisors will no doubt be spending the evening trying to piece together the politics of the day, and how they lost on a motion they didn’t anticipate from a councillor they thought they could count on.

Comments

  • Michael DiFrancesco

    Well, that was entertaining.

  • http://www.miroslavglavic.ca Miroslav Glavic

    Ford won, he got rid of the bag fee,

    • Anonymous

      I doubt that’s going to be the thing he remembers about today. I expect a Sue Ann Levy column on ‘Turncoat’ Shiner before the weekend.

      • LeeZamparo

        Seriously, what a back-stabber that guy is. How does he still have a job?

    • Michael DiFrancesco

      If this is what winning looks like, Ford can win every vote from here to 2014 as far as I’m concerned.

    • Antinephalist

      Which is a lot like saying Ford pushed for a repeal of gas taxes and “won” when gasoline was banned.

      Seriously, that kind of naked sycophancy is just a leeeetle too obvious.

    • Anonymous

      Hardly. Ford was humiliated… again. Hooray!

      The Child Mayor couldn’t get Council to pass GO at this point. Can’t wait to see the next council vote on, say, ripping out the Dupont Bike Lanes, which will probably result in a citywide 100 km separated bike lane network and a regulation that all government workers (including mayors) ride bikes to work…

    • Anonymous

      The operation was successful; the patient is dead.

  • stopitman

    Just switch back to the brown paper bags like back in the day. At least if they’re sitting on the street they’ll be turned into pulp by cars and disappear into the sewers (and hopefully the water treatment plant, not a stream).

  • Anonymous

    Thumbs up for banning plastic bags, but thumbs down for the overkill ban on degradable bags.

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps because solid waste don’t want them in the recycling or green bin stream?

      • Anonymous

        Aren’t they already? And they decompose, so what difference does it make?

        Never mind, followed a link below to the answer.

  • Anonymous

    I must own like 83 of those “reusable” plastic LCBO bags, so if that’s the solution I’m not clear on how much this is going to cut down on plastic waste. Here’s hoping retailers will switch to paper.

    • Anonymous

      The solution would be for your to remember to bring a bag next time.

      Hey…maybe there’s an app for that……..

      • Anonymous

        But then I would need to remember to check the app, so I’d need an app for that, and then I would need to check that app, and it’s turtles all the way down.

    • Michael DiFrancesco

      I would hope that somewhere around the 50th reusable bag, you’d either remember to bring ‘em or give up and just use the LCBO’s free paper bags.

      • Anonymous

        The LCBO is on my way home from work, so I would have to remember to bring them in the morning; it’s a bit alcoholic to be planning my booze purchases that far ahead. Plus, the free paper bags don’t have handles and are no good for walking home.

        • Michael DiFrancesco

          Put ‘em in your backpack, suitcase, whatever. That’s what I do; there’s really not much effort involved.

          Those LCBO bags are actually my favourites, because unlike the unruly Loblaws ones, they at least pack themselves into convenient, wallet-sized pockets. I’ve always got a few in my backpack, planned shopping or no.

        • Anonymous

          Some of us do remember. We don’t define ourselves as alcoholics because of it.

          • Anonymous

            Hey, good for you! All I’m saying is, can we please have useful paper bags? I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

        • Anonymous

          Maybe keep a reuseable bag at work?

  • Anonymous

    Next Sunday, on the radio

    .”..and I’m telling you……..People want bags on subways.”

  • Josh Rachlis

    Pardon my language, but this is the best f—ing thing I’ve read all year. I feel delirious, like it’s all a joke, or I’m living in some alternate reality where people are actually sane and care about each other and our world. Don’t pinch me. I don’t want to wake up.

  • Josh Rachlis

    Pardon my language, but this is the best f—ing thing I’ve read all year. I feel delirious, like it’s all a joke, or I’m living in some alternate reality where people are actually sane and care about each other and our world. Don’t pinch me. I don’t want to wake up.

  • http://valdodge.com/ Val Dodge

    Too bad Karen Stintz missed the vote today. I was looking forward to her impassioned speech about how one of her constituents couldn’t spend any time with her children because she had to pay a nickel for a shopping bag.

    • Anonymous

      I think you are misquoting Shelly Carrol.

  • http://oaktree.dreamwidth.org/ oaktree

    Lol, Ford got trolled hardcore

  • http://twitter.com/belle_the_cat Bell the Cat

    I can’t wait to hear the ranting tomorrow from the moron brother and Mammoliti.

    • Anonymous

      Never mind them, you should see the comments section at the Sun. Ford Nation has literally exploded over this smashing defeat at the very moment of victory…

      • Anonymous

        Warmington is a hoot, his comparison to gangs and plastic bags is just the best.

    • Anonymous

      MAMMO! PULL YOUR FREAKIN’ THUMB OUT!!!

  • guest

    With plastic bags banned, what will condo apartment dwellers use to line the green bins in their units? They could use the kitchen catcher type bags manufactured for that purpose, but they cost approximately 10 cents each! And paper bags certainly won’t serve the purpose, anymore than the cotton reusable bags will! If the plastic bags currently sold for 5 cents by the supermarkets are indeed compostable or biodegradable, they are surely preferable to the kind of bags people might otherwise use to collect their refuse in.

    • Vampchick21

      Seriously? No, really…..seriously? Buy the damn box of garbage bags and compostable bags and recycling bags at the supermarket as part of your grocery run and get over it.

    • A+

      You know how in your mailboxes you get those wonderful grocery store flyers? Line your little green bin with those and, when it’s full, dump everything into your outside bin and start again! Your little bin starting to get a little dirty, a little smelly? Just wash it! No plastic necessary.

      My family started doing this with our little green compost bin in PEI in the late 90s and we still do it this way now.

    • Anonymous

      You know those polythene-type bags that grocery stores let you take as many of as you need to bag your produce (also works well for bagging meat packaged in paper or leaky foam tray/plastic wrap contrivances)? The bigger ones fit kitchen green bins quite nicely.

      Bags for dog poop? Use old bread bags or the long narrow bags that are sometimes on newspapers.

  • Andrew

    it seems as though people hate Ford so much that they’re willing to make unreasonable decisions just to upset him. where are we supposed to put our kitchen garbage without plastic bags? seriously. plastic bags are pretty important. if they wanted to make an environmentally friendly decision, why not make biodegradable bags mandatory instead of getting rid of them all together. sometimes this city is a joke.

    • Anonymous

      We had kitchen waste back in the 60′s too, you know.

      That and its not like you won’t be able to buy bags like this at the Dollar Store a hundred at a shot.

    • James

      Kitchen garbage bags cost about 6 cents a bag (or less) when bought in batches of 100.

      There’s no ban on selling garbage bags.

    • Vampchick21

      I cannot believe you asked that silly, silly question. We really are a society full of entitlement, aren’t we, that we can’t wrap our heads around buying a box of bags for garbage that lasts us a while.

    • Nick

      Actually, plastic bags from grocery stores are pretty useless for green bins, because 8 times out of 10 there’s a small hole somewhere that leads to goop leaking out. Purpose-bought liners are leak proof and actually have less plastic in them.

      • Anonymous

        That hole is put in there intentionally to reduce the risk of small children suffocating when they stick their head in the bag.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6EMGDAEPGVIVE5NAWB3QKNIZKU Challenger

    When we started to pay the 5 cents for a bag, seemed the quality of the bags became almost nil. They would break if you put more than 6 things in them ( a couple of cans, a package of meat , veggies) nothing too heavy. I would think, I am paying for this and now I can’t even use it again if i wanted to. The plastic bag fee was stupid and I think going back to paper is fine.

  • Ritzncarlie

    Have they completely lost their minds!!! Council has no right to tell me what bags I can use. They can’t deal with all the big problems facing our city and waste time on nonsense like this.

    • Anonymous

      That environment stuff. Such a small problem! Subways, subways, subways!

    • Anonymous

      Actually, they do have the right. And the biggest problem our city faces is the mayor, so…

    • Anonymous

      How will this bring gamblers and hookers to our city !?

  • Anonymous

    Does the ban include the clear bags you find in the produce section at grocery stores?

    • Anonymous

      Here’s the text of the motion:

      “That City Council prohibit all City of Toronto retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar effective January 1, 2013.”

      So it depends on what is meant by “carryout (shopping)”, but I’m going to say no, the produce bags are fine.

      • Anonymous

        It wasn’t Shiner’s intention to include those in the ban. Presumably some more technical language will need to get attached to this before it is implemented, to clarify these definitions, but his target was the plastic bags we use to take our stuff out of the store, not ones we use to protect individual items.

      • Anonymous

        So if No Frills moves its yellow bag stock to the produce section, it’s OK? I don’t see how they’re going to make a distinction here – plenty of people carry out their produce in those bags, rather than put them in another bag, and those produce bags are often the only bag fruit/veg markets provide (at the counter), intended for carry-out.

        (The ban itself doesn’t effect me, I always use a backpack and cloth bags.)

        • Anonymous

          Other jurisdictions use technical criteria to distinguish these things, such as the thickness of the plastic in the bags.

          • Anonymous

            Will the motion be enacted as-is, or will staff/council be able to revise it (without needing to vote again) to specify that sort of thing?

      • Anonymous

        Hmm, now “providing” is catching my attention. If the store sells you a single-use plastic carryout (plastic) bag, is that the same as providing one?

        • Anonymous

          This is why legislation shouldn’t be made up on the fly!

        • Anonymous

          According to Shiner it means provide in any way: give, sell, put in a dispenser.

  • Girlpublisher

    From the City of Toronto website:

    Currently, the City of Toronto and the majority of other municipalities across Ontario do not want biodegradable plastic packaging, including biodegradable plastic bags, in their recycling or organics programs for the following key reasons….

    http://www.toronto.ca/garbage/biodegradable_plastic.htm

    • Anonymous

      I started to use biodegradable bags until I came across that some time ago. Unfortunately the city failed to get the message out. Maybe this time

  • http://twitter.com/Welshgrrl Vashty Hawkins

    I think the online (and otherwise) butthurt from some people regarding this ban is amusing. OMG my personal convenience must always trump our planet’s environmental future – oh the humanity!!

  • Anonymous

    Because of what he pulled with the dead of night Fort York Bridge stunt, I am loath to accept just yet that DS doesn’t have an agenda of some kind here.

    • Anonymous

      Shiner is a strange dude on things like this.

      He loves the environment days.

      He also made sure his ward got a skate park cause his 14 year old son thought it was a good idea.

      And when he was budget chief, he actually thought things through without grandstanding, unlike a certain MDG.

      He’s an old school progressive conservative.

  • Anonymous

    Is this really a win for anyone? It’s not very clear whether paper or plastic bags are worse for the environment:
    http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/paper-plastic1.htm
    If they’re roughly equal, wouldn’t plastic be better due to being more re-usable and versatile? Weren’t plastic bags originally considered a more environmentally friendly replacement for paper bags?