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Montreal plans to ban plastic shopping bags by 2018


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 5:18 PM - It was an undertaking that failed to gain support in one of Canada's biggest cities, but now Montreal, Que., plans to ban the use of plastic bags by 2018, according to city mayor Denis Coderre.

While plastic bags are currently banned in several small municipalities in Canada, Montreal will become the first major city to put a ban in place.

A similar initiative was proposed by Toronto city council in January 2013, but the bag ban and the five cent fee for use was overturned by November of the same year, leaving it up to individual retailers if they want to charge for plastic bags.

Montreal officials say the decision was made based on recommendations from the city's environmental committee.


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"You will understand that our plan is the result of extensive analysis and thoughtful reflection," Coderre said, according to the CBC.

"Lightweight bags, which are used by the billions, are volatile and represent a clear environmental concern." 

The city will give consumers and the retail industry two years to prepare, which applies to lightweight plastic shopping bags as well as bags that are oxo-degradable, oxo-fragmentable, oxo-biodegradable and biodegradable.

PLASTIC WASTE A BIG CONCERN IN CANADA 

According to the Greener Footprints Society, a not-for-profit environmental advocacy group based in B.C., Canadians use between 9 and 15 billion plastic shopping bags a year which, if tied together, would be enough to circle the Earth 55 times.

It's estimated that 1 billion tonnes of plastic have been discarded globally since the 1950s and research suggests it will take up to 500 years for some forms to biodegrade.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 in the U.S. actually made it to recycling plants.


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The other 92% was shuffled off to landfills or found its way into the water.

According to the CBC, paper and plastic makes up roughly 20 per cent of the waste collected from homes in Ottawa, Ont. Approximately 55 per cent of that waste currently ends up in the landfill. While that suggests Canadian cities may be faring better than some U.S. cities, both statistics suggest more needs to be done to keep plastic waste out of landfills.

IS BANNING PLASTIC BAGS A GOOD IDEA?

In June 2013, The Weather Network posted an informal poll asking if banning plastic bags was a good idea.

The results were somewhat split.

Of the 1,443 votes, 58% voted yes, 38% voted no and 4% remained undecided:

Results from an informal online poll by The Weather Network, June 2013.


Some critics have questioned whether or not a plastic bag ban is an effective way to cut down on waste.
"Toronto tried and it got some people bringing reusable bags ... but even without the ban, now we just pay $0.05 per bag," Carrie L. commented on The Weather Network's website.

"I think having better composting programs for multi-unit dwellings would be a better environmental initiative to focus on."

"It is not effective," Cathy Grosz said.


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"People tend to reuse the plastic bags for other purposes like garbage. If the plastic bags are banned at the checkout, then people will just buy them and most likely will not buy the biodegradable as they are way more expensive then the average plastic bags. So in the end, the same amount of plastic bags ends up in the waste system."

Opinions were split on Twitter as well:

Still, environmentalists say the ban is a step in the right direction.

Mayor Coderre says he hopes the city's ban, which will go into effect on January 1, 2018, will become a model for other Canadian cities.

Sources: Flickr | Greener Footprints Society | CBC

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