Solid Waste & Recycling


Plastics industry critcizes bag levy

In a news release, the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC -- part of the Canadian Plastics Industry As...

In a news release, the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC — part of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association [CPIA]) has criticized a recent five-cent fee to be imposed on consumers who request non-reusable plastic grocery bags. The release is reproduced in full below.

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Toronto (January 12, 2009) – Consumers are the losers with the implementation today of a five-cent charge on plastic shopping bags by Loblaw which has moved quickly to benefit from the City of Toronto proposal to charge for bags. The five-cent bag fee is an unnecessary $44 million hit to consumers on their food bills and retailers are the big winners.

The bags cost 1-cent and the Loblaw charge is 5-cents; a 500 per cent profit. Retailers are turning a cost item into a highly profitable source of revenue at the expense of consumers. For Loblaw, with its dominant share of the market, this is a major windfall profit of millions during a recession, particularly since the retailer is rushing to introduce the fee in Toronto six months ahead of the city mandated deadline so it can add as much as $15 million to their bottomline.

“With the Loblaw launch, the first shoe has dropped on the $44 million bag tax on consumers in Toronto. It is very hard to see this fee as anything other than a revenue grab during a recession”, said Cathy Cirko, Vice President, Environment and Plastics Industry Council.

“There is no question that this will add costs to consumers’ food bills. Consumers will now have to buy plastic bags if they want to participate in the city’s organics collection program and to get their household garbage to curbside. We doubt very much that Loblaw plans to lower the cost of their food to consumers,” said Cirko.

Currently, seven out of ten traditional plastic shopping bags are reused by residents for many purposes including household garbage and the city organics program. A fee could become a disincentive to participation in the organics program. Consumers lose even if they opt for a reusable bag.

As Cirko points out consumers are not going to use a reusable for their household garbage or to participate in the city organics program. They will now have to pay for bags; either five-cents for the traditional bag or 15-cents for a kitchen catcher or they can shop at stores that are not charging for bags.

 “If consumers opt for kitchen catchers, it will cost three times as much adding even more to the retailer bottomline; a win-win for retailers”, adds Cirko.

The industry is most concerned that the Loblaw focus and publicity around bag fees is a red herring sending the wrong message to consumers. And it could end up undermining and killing Toronto’s new blue bin recycling program for plastic shopping bags.

The addition of plastic shopping bags to the Toronto blue bin was seen as the first step to recycle a wide range of other plastic bags and film in packaged products sold by retailers like Loblaw – bread bags, toilet paper wrap, dry cleaning bags, produce bags, milk bags, vegetable bags, newspaper bags, etc. Toronto’s bags are being recycled by EFS Plastics Inc. in Elmira, Ont. and remanufactured right here in Ontario into new bags, drainage pipes, lawn edging, and a host of other made-in-Ontario products.

“Consumers want to recycle, not pay unnecessary fees for bags,” contends Cirko. “The best thing Loblaw could do for the environment is promote recycling and educate consumers on the 3 R’s. We should not be continually exporting jobs to Asia. Retailers need to work with industry on solutions that grow jobs locally and help the environment,” said Cirko. According to the plastics industry, 10,900 Ontarians are employed in the manufacture of plastic bags and film.

International experience shows that bag fees actually hurt the environment. Plastic bags represent only 1 per cent of landfill and less than .5 per cent of litter. Everywhere bag fees have been implemented, they have failed. Consumers have responded by purchasing the heavier kitchen catcher type bags which contain 82 per cent more plastic and by using more paper bags. This has resulted in more resource consumption, more material going to landfill and the generation of even more greenhouse gases.

“The best thing we can all do for the environment is buy locally-made products, reuse and recycle locally,” continues Cirko. “We don’t need to load these kinds of costs on consumers, but need to continue with public education, building recycling infrastructure and drive recycling. There are 44 million reasons why this is a better approach.”

The Environment and P
lastics Industry Council (EPIC), a council, is part of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), is dedicated to sustainable plastics recycling and to minimizing plastic waste sent to landfill.

For more information, contact:

Aydan Raghavan/Jaclyn Clare


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