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Council approves ban on plastic bags, Styrofoam containers

Ban on plastic straws to be considered before bylaw formalized, potential fees coming for disposable coffee cups and reusable shopping bags
Plastic grocery bags. (via Shutterstock)

City council gave its stamp of approval Monday evening to a ban on some of the most problematic single-use plastic items beginning next year and potentially impose a fee on disposable coffee cups and reusable shopping bags in 2024.

Council approved a series of recommendations contained in the Solid Waste Management Master Plan, including a ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, with the potential inclusion of plastic straws before the ban bylaw is formally considered in September.

Plastic straws were to be included in the ban, but staff recommended they be removed for now to allow for further consultation with the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), which has flagged some concerns.

“This is a sensitive issue and we want to make sure we get it right,” commented deputy CAO Jayne Holmes, noting initial feedback from the AAC was that banning plastic straws, except upon request, could “provide some roadblocks” to the enjoyment of everyday life.

The ban bylaw is slated to return to council for formalization in September, at which point the inclusion of plastic straws will be considered.

Initially, staff recommended the ban on some single-use plastic items come into effect next March, but after learning businesses reported needing only six months to prepare for the ban, council’s committee of the whole opted earlier this month to move up the implementation date.

Council also agreed to potentially add a 25 cent fee on disposable coffee cups and $1 for reusable shopping bags as of March 2024, to be collected and used by the businesses. That matter will return to council for consideration following a new round of public consultations.

Coun. Mark MacKinnon sought to have the coffee cup fee upped to $1 and restricted to disposable cups that aren’t “100 per cent recyclable” but motions to that effect failed by 4-7 and 3-8 respectively.

Councillors Mike Salisbury and Dominique O'Rourke were absent from the meeting.

“This is designed to be uncomfortable because that’s how change happens,” he said prior to the vote, explaining the amendments were intended to encourage companies to give up non-recyclable disposable cups. “If you’re not going to ban them, the least you can do is make them recyclable.”

“Please, let’s be a little more progressive,” added Coun. Rodrigo Goller, who seconded the motions.

Several of the council members who voted against MacKinnon’s motions said they did so because the amount of the fee will be part of the consultation process to be done, while staff raised concerns about how “100 per cent” recyclable will be defined.

“One dollar goes beyond incentivizing into punitive,” stated Coun. Leanne Caron.

If ultimately approved by council, a 25 cent fee on disposable coffee cups is to be implemented in March of 2024, along with requiring businesses to charge at least $1 per reusable shopping bag sold.

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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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