Toronto has voted to amend the single-use and takeaway items reduction strategy, eliminating the suggested minimum fee for reusable bags at checkout counters.
Though the decision was made on Friday, Dec. 15, it was understood that discussions around a minimum fee for reusable bags may go back to the council for additional debate at some point in the future when there is further clarity on the outcome of the federal plastics court case.
The amendment includes an ‘ask-first’ policy for reusable cups where businesses would be required to ask if customers brought their cups before being served. The council also clarified that cup lids were exempt from the ‘ask-first’ policy.
Instead, businesses are required to post signs stating they accept reusable cups. It will be included as part of the staff report back to the council in Q1 2024 and will have to pass a vote at that time.
The Retail Council of Canada says they will continue encouraging policy flexibility and practicality to consider health and safety issues. It will also provide options for self-serve stations to meet any ‘ask first’ requirements.
“Our members are generally committed to reducing plastic waste, independently and collaboratively through initiatives like the Canada Plastics Act. RCC supports the amendments made to the bylaw plastic bags under reusable plastic bags… Our biggest concern is a lack of alignment from some municipalities with federal policy with provincial policy that typically leads to inefficiency, it leads to audit cost, and it confuses consumers, because you have different requirements in different jurisdictions and you’re not achieving environmental outcomes. Also, on the bags, like we don’t believe that charging $2 a bag by 2025 would bring more environmental value,” Michael Zabaneh, vice president of sustainability at RCC, told Grocery Business.
As of March 1, 2024, in Toronto, all retailer and quick service restaurant (QSR) locations in the GTA must ask each customer before providing any single-use shopping bag (including paper bags).
A statement reads that while most retailers may already have a policy here (as bags are now traditionally linked to a higher cost to customers), some retailers and all QSRs must adapt their operating policies before March 1, 2024. Enforcement of this bylaw will be complaints-based.
For QSR members, there are additional ‘ask first’ provisions for all single-use accessory food items other than cups and lids (e.g., utensils, straws, stir sticks, spill plugs, napkins (serviettes), condiment packets, and cup trays) as of March 1, 2024. Further, businesses are required to accept reusable containers.