Montreal’s Plastic Bag Ban – Effective January 1st

Connector Winter 2018

Montreal’s new bylaw banning single-use plastic bags went into effect January 1st, making it the first major Canadian city to put forward such a rule.

The city’s executive committee member responsible for the environment, Jean-François Parenteau, says retail store owners will have a grace period to adjust to the new bylaw, during which time city officials will meet with retailers to help them figure out how to conform to the new way of doing things.

After June 5 – World Environment Day – retailers will be subject to penalties if they continue to hand out thin, single-use bags.

Parenteau said it is an easy decision for the environment. “Quebecers use two billion bags a year, and the recuperation rate is only 14 per cent,” he said.

The new bylaw bans lightweight plastic shopping bags, specifically ones that are less than 50 microns (or 0.05 millimetres) thick. The ban also applies to all types of oxo-degradable, oxo-fragmentable, oxo-biodegradable and biodegradable bags.

Certain bags, such as small plastic bags used for fresh vegetables or medication, will not be banned for “hygienic reasons”.

Taso Erimos, the owner of P.A. Marché, a chain of grocery stores that includes the flagship store on Montreal’s Park Avenue, said his cashiers dole out more than 1,000 thin bags per day.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea eliminating bags. People will probably get used to bringing their own,” he said, noting the thin bags cost him two cents each.

Montrealers don’t have to go far to know how the ban might work. People living across the St. Lawrence River in Brossard have been doing without plastic bags since 2016.

Brossard’s director of urban planning, Éric Boutet, said the municipality has seen a 96 per cent compliance rate since the bylaw was enacted, and city inspectors have yet to hand out any fines.

“Merchants want to respect the clients’ needs and requests, and the pressure came from the clients who were in favour of the bylaw,” said Boutet, describing how retailers jumped on the bandwagon.

“They wanted to keep a positive corporate image.”

Individual Montreal retailers who fail to adhere to the bylaw will face fines ranging from $200 to $1,000 for a first infraction and $300 to $2,000 for any subsequent ones. For companies, those fines range from $400 to $4,000.

The group representing store owners said merchants have been adjusting to the new reality for years.

“Our preference would have been for no regulation,” said Jean-Luc Benoît, a spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada. “The industry has made lots of effort educating and providing other options, and in the last ten years, the use of plastic bags has dropped fifty per cent,” he said of the shift in Quebec.

Benoit said his group has been sending out weekly reminders of the new bylaw to its members, and he said most have come up with a variety of options for shoppers who come into their stores without bags.

California introduced a state-wide bag ban in 2016, but certain regions of the state got rid of plastic bags as early as 2010. In an email to the CBC, Melissa Romero with the non-profit group Californians Against Waste said the ban has been a success.

“We calculated that due to both the wave of local ordinances and the statewide bag ban, plastic grocery bag litter has dropped by 72 per cent since 2010 and now accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of items littered,” she said.

That’s a lot fewer bags blowing in the wind.

Source: CBC News