Grocery bags CP photo

CP photo

Montreal brought a citywide ban on plastic bags into effect on Jan. 1. It is the first major Canadian city to take the step successfully.

The ban covers plastic bags under 50 microns in thickness and biodegradable bags, which decompose when exposed to heat and light. Bags used to carry fruit and vegetables to the cash register, or to wrap meat, are exempt.

The ban was announced in February 2016 and passed by city council in August. The city hopes it will promote a turn to reusable bags.

"Quebecers use two billion bags a year, and the recuperation rate is only 14 per cent," said Jean-Francois Parenteau, the Montreal city council member responsible for the environment. "We can find these bags in the trees, on the South Shore — everywhere in nature."

Merchants have six months to comply with the ban. Effective June 5 – World Environment Day – fines will range from $200 to $2000 for an individual and $400 to $4000 for a business.

Parenteau believes retailers were well prepared for the introduction of the ban, as they place their bag orders a long time in advance.

Retail and plastic industry spokespeople oppose the plastic bag bans. The Canadian Plastics Industry Association website claims that most shopping bags are reused and recycled, and that other measures to reduce the use of plastic bags are already having an effect.

Several smaller municipalities have imposed similar bans, and Victoria says it will implement a ban in July of this year. Toronto was unsuccessful with a similar measure in 2012.

Source: Canadian Press

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