In a vote on December 2, 2008, on controversial plastic food packaging proposals, City of Toronto councilors voted in favor (as of December 8) of adding polystyrene foam packaging and plastic shopping bags to the city’s blue cart curbside recycling system.
The move was applauded by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) that was concerned that the city could try to ban certain forms of “in-store” packaging under new municipal legal powers. EPIC claims that polystyrene and film plastic both have strong recycling markets.
Council members have shown a willingness to work with industry on expanding recycling to include the remainder of plastic take-out food containers and industry has until February 2011 to work out how it will be done.
The plastics industry was not as pleased with the city’s move to force retailers to adopt the “Loblaw’s” amendment — a charge of five cents per plastic shopping bag that it claims will ultimately hit consumers to the tune of millions over the course of a year.
“The five-cent charge as it stands now translates to $61 per family,” said Cirko. “And Toronto is doing this knowing full well that 7 out of 10 bags are being reused by residents.”
This position seems to skirt the issue that families will be encouraged by the five cent levy to switch to reusable shopping bags, and avoid such costs. However, Cirko says that many people will end up buying more-expensive plastic garbage bags for use as “kitchen catchers”, defeating the purpose of bag levy.
In a news release, Cirko stated: “Quite honestly, leaders at both the provincial level and in the city have been misleading the public. They know that plastic shopping bags are not an environmental problem. They are reusable, recyclable, represent less than one per cent of landfill and 13/100s of one per cent of litter. The fee just doesn’t make any sense, especially when the city has just put in place a recycling solution.”
Toronto included an amendment that will require retailers to provide alternatives to plastic bags — reusable bags, cardboard boxes, carry out totes, and paper bags, for free to consumers.
“We caution consumers not to be fooled,” said Cirko. “Nothing is free. In spite of what the city has done, all these costs will be passed along by retailers to consumers in the price of food. It could no longer cost families $45 million, but anywhere from $225 million to $880 million depending on the container that is given away. Instead of $61 per family, they could be paying an additional $300 to $1,189 per family.”
According to EPIC, the five-cent tax decision may also put 10,000 Ontario jobs in plastic bag and film manufacturing in jeopardy.
“The tragedy is that this will hammer Ontario’s manufacturing sector once again when it is already bleeding jobs,” states the news release.
“Most people do not know that so many Ontarians are involved in the manufacture of plastic bags and film, which are 100 per cent recyclable,” stated Cirko. “It isn’t rocket science to see that there will be unnecessary job losses because of this foolish attack on plastic shopping bags.”