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Your Produce Bags Are Probably Safe From the City’s Plastic-Bag Ban

The exact language of Toronto's bag-ban bylaw is now public, and it looks like some kinds of plastic sacks are getting a reprieve.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrblick/500152239/"}nick_blick{/a}, via Flickr.

The funny thing about Toronto’s ban on single-use plastic shopping bags is that councillors voted it into existence sight unseen. They had no notion of what the exact language of the bylaw would be when they approved it on June 6—and, yeah, for something with such widespread consequences that’s pretty unusual. Today, the public can finally have a look at the exact provisions of the ban, and while they are pretty much as severe as expected, plastic aficionados will be heartened to learn that certain types of bags will probably still be allowed, even if the ban gets enacted as written.

Among the types of bags that wouldn’t be banned under the proposed bylaw are produce and bulk-food bags, bags used to “protect prepared foods or bakery goods,” and newspaper bags. The proposed bylaw also specifically exempts plastic bags that are sold in packages, for use as trash-can liners.

The ban’s language is modelled on the language in the City’s bag-fee bylaw, which required retailers to charge customers a nickel for each plastic shopping bag until council decided to rescind it in June. The bag ban appears crafted to outlaw only bags that would have been subject to that nickel fee.

The bylaw will go before the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee at its meeting on November 14. If approved there, the ban would still need a final go-ahead from city council. Unless council decides to amend the ban’s effective date, it will start on January 1, 2013.

There is some question as to whether the ban will be susceptible to legal challenges from plastic-bag boosters like the Ontario Convenience Stores Association. The City’s legal counsel, City Solicitor Anna Kinastowski, was reportedly wary of that possibility as recently as two months ago, but now the bylaw is going to committee with her recommendation, so presumably she thinks there’s a reasonable chance the City could win in court.

The November 14 Public Works Committee meeting is likely to be the public’s one and only chance to give deputations on the ban. Make sure to go if you have strong feelings.

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