Councillor Walker wants proof five cent plastic bag fee reduces use
Grocery chains interim results indicates it has, for me it’s meant no new bags
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 4 for Town Crier.)
Most Torontonians want to do right by the environment.
The city has a policy aimed at getting us to reduce our use of plastic sopping bags and produce less garbage. And if we don’t follow along, it will cost us more money.
This five-cent plastic bag fee that kicked in June 1.
The city’s aim in this recent bylaw is to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in littering the streets or sent to landfill.
Midtown councillor Michael Walker is asking how many fewer bags are being used as a result of the nickel charge.
The city manager responded Sept. 30 to Walker’s inquiry. The short answer is we don’t know yet.
The General Manager Geoff Rathbone will be reporting back to the city after May 31 when the policy is a year old. At that time industry will report back to the city on how many fewer plastic bags customers are using.
So far, Metro (which bought Dominion) grocery stores have reported that by June 29 there was already a 70 percent reduction in plastic bags compared to the monthly average.
Supermarket giant Loblaw introduced the bag charge earlier back in January and also reported a 75 percent reduction in plastic bags now that customers were charged.
We shall see if this reduction in plastic bag use was just initial reaction to the nickel charge and if consumers will embrace alternatives such as reusable bags or carts.
According to 2005 audit data by Stewardship Ontario, collectively in Toronto we use 457 million retail plastic shopping bags annually.
That’s 8.8 plastic retail shopping bags, per family weekly. I will be interested to see if there’s a breakdown for our city and how much that number has gone down.
Personally, I have tried hard to reduce my plastic bag use for past two and half years. That’s when I started carrying cloth bags with me whenever I leave the house. And most of the time I was successful and was down to 6-12 plastic bags per year.
But it was not until this past June 1 when the five-cent charge kicked in that I was really determined to report to readers that I haven’t taken one single plastic bag whether for clothes, books or groceries. As of Oct. 5, I haven’t accumulated any new plastic retail bags.
Originally city staff proposed that retailers credit customers 10 cents every time they did not take a plastic bag. But the industry fought back and Loblaw proposed to Mayor David Miller the five-cent charge per bag instead.
By the way, if you do take plastic bags and don’t reuse them, they can be recycled in the blue box.
So what do you think?
Is this new five-cent bag charge changing plastic use in this city?