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November 4, 2008
Report recommends options to reduce packaging waste
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre), Chair, Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, and Geoff Rathbone, General Manager, Solid Waste Management Services will provide a technical briefing to media on a report titled In-Store Packaging, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) and Water Bottles containing recommendations to reduce in-store packaging. The report’s recommendations, to be presented to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on November 12, support the City’s goal to achieve 70 per cent waste diversion from landfill by 2010.

The briefing will also include an update on the City’s Request for Proposals (RFP) to add two new materials to our Blue Bin recycling program - polystyrene and plastic film.

Date: Tuesday, November 4
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
New Location: Room C, Reception A, 2nd floor, City Hall, 100 Queen St. W.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:
Pat Barrett, Sr. Communications Co-ordinator, 416-392-4716,


Qs & As: Solid Waste In-Store Packaging Reduction Report
“Proposed Measures to Reduce In-Store Packaging Waste and Litter, Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste and Plastic Water Bottles”

Why is it important to reduce in-store packaging?

The report recommendations, which follow the hierarchy of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) putting the emphasis on reduction first, are designed to:
o minimize the volume of waste generated that requires landfill disposal;
o benefit the environment by conserving natural resources;
o reduce climate-change impact;
o reduce litter;
o respond to the public’s request that we address waste packaging and assist them to reduce their volume-based Solid Waste Management Fee; and
o maintain consumer health and safety.

How does in-store packaging reduction help Toronto achieve 70% diversion by 2010?

By focusing on reducing packaging waste, there will be considerably less material sent to landfill and less litter. Overall there will be less to collect, sort, process, haul and manage through the system. The energy and cost to recycle material will also be avoided. Both recycling and disposal require the use of energy and transportation, produce greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.

What in-store packaging does the report focus on?

The report identifies three types of packaging for source reduction: hot drink cups, plastic retail shopping bags and single-use plastic food packaging. There are a variety of viable reusable alternatives for such single-use items as hot drink cups and shopping bags. All three types of packaging are generated at the point-of-purchase within Toronto’s boundaries and are therefore suitable to be municipally regulated.

What do the report’s recommendations ask of residents?

The report’s recommendations offer residents, as consumers, a financial incentive to make positive environmental choices and the ability to reduce their use of single-use container packaging. The proposed policies offer customers convenient reusable alternatives. On the occasion that they have to use retailer-supplied”, single-use containers, the containers must be compatible with Toronto’s recycling program by as early as June 2009 (dates vary according to package type).

Will the packaging reduction recommendations hurt Toronto’s businesses?

The City’s recommended policies are designed to have a low administrative and financial impact on retailers and are intended to continue to keep Toronto businesses competitive with others outside our boundaries. Our intention is not to increase the baseline price of products. The recommendations are consistent with the goals of the Target 70 Plan to offer residents information and tools to make environmentally responsible choices, consider customer convenience, maintain WDO (Waste Diversion Ontario) funding and maximize the efficiencies of collection and processing of recyclables.

As of June 1, 2009, what are retailers required to do regarding plastic bags?

Starting June 1, 2009, the recommendations propose that retailers that offer plastic shopping bags must provide a discount of a minimum of 10 cents per bag for each single-use plastic retail shopping bag not used by the customer. Signs must be posted to let customers know about the discount and it must be recorded on the receipt.

These retailers are also required, when requested, to fill reusable bags the customer provides in lieu of plastic shopping bags to carry out their purchases.

By the beginning of June 2009, retailers must also ensure that they only offer plastic bags accepted in the City’s recycling program (no biodegradable plastic bags or bags with metal grommets or other non-plastic fittings).

“Plastic retail shopping bag” - a bag made of plastic film, designed to carry customer purchases from a store.

“Reusable bag” - a bag that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse that is made of cloth or other machine washable fabric or other durable material suitable for reuse.

“Biodegradable plastic bag”- a bag which is composed of, in whole or part, biodegradable plastic, Oxo-biodegradable plastics, Plastarch material, polylactide or any other plastic resin composite that is intended to degrade at a faster rate then non-biodegradable plastic film.

Why are biodegradable bags not accepted in the City’s recycling program?

Biodegradable plastic bags look the same as other types of traditional plastic bags, but they are made out of different material than the plastic bags we take for recycling. Biodegradable plastic bags would contaminate our sorting, processing and the material we supply to our end markets. Products made out of recycled plastic bags, such as benches, chairs, tables, would be structurally weakened if they contained biodegradable content that is designed to break down over time.

Why reduce the use of plastic retail shopping bags when the City plans to add them to its recycling program?

In the hierarchy of the 3Rs, reducing is always preferable to reusing or recycling. Accordingly, the recommendations focus on reducing the use of plastic bags so there would be less to either reuse or recycle. While recycling is better for the environment than landfill disposal, it still requires the use of energy and transportation along with the accompanying environmental and financial costs. Simply reducing the amount of waste we manage by reducing the number of plastic bags reduces our overall environmental impact.

What do the recommendations say retailers must do regarding hot drink cups?

Starting June 1, 2009, the recommendations propose that retailers who sell hot drinks in single-use disposable cups must provide each customer who purchases a hot drink in a reusable or refillable mug a minimum discount of 20 cents off the price of a hot drink served in a disposable cup. Signs must be posted to let customers know about the discount and it must be recorded on the receipt.
These retailers are also required to sell the hot drink in an equivalent quantity by filling a reusable mug in lieu of single-use disposable cup.

Additionally, by December 31, 2009, the recommendations propose banning the sale or distribution of single-use hot drink cups that are not acceptable in the City’s Blue Bin recycling program.

“Hot Drink Cup”- a disposable, single-use container designed to convey hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate typically composed of paper and/or plastic material; including the plastic, fitted lid for the cup typically composed of polystyrene, or other plastic; and any associated sleeve designed to fit around the body of the Hot Drink Cup for the purpose of insulating, typically composed of paper fibre.

Why can other cities recycle coffee cups and Toronto can’t?

Each city has their own way of sorting and processing collected materials intended for recycling. Toronto’s recycling system is not equipped to take this bi-material item (paper cup and plastic lid) and separate the plastic lid from the cup, a crucial step to the process. In some instances, cups may potentially be recyclable but plastic lids, which are made out of non-recyclable material, are not. Those that recycle single-use hot drink cups do not collect public space recyclables or service over 1,000 special events per year as is the case in Toronto. Plastic lids continue to be a contaminant in the systems of the cities that do recycle hot drink cups.

What are the recommendations regarding plastic take-out food containers?

The report recommends that the City request foodservice retailer representatives, foodservice trade associations and/or other foodservice stakeholders who currently use plastic takeout food containers, to develop, by December 31, 2010, a reusable and/or refillable takeout food container, or takeout food service protocol, which will allow customers to choose a reusable packaging option.

If no reusable and/or refillable takeout food container or takeout food protocol is available by January 1, 2011, the report asks that staff have the opportunity to report back to City Council on the use of bans or financial tools regarding plastic takeout food containers.

By December 31, 2009, the sale or distribution of plastic take-out food containers that are not compatible with the City’s Blue Bin recycling program will be banned.

“Plastic Takeout Food Container” - a container made of plastic resin (including, but not limited to polystyrene, PET, polypropylene, HDPE, LDPE or any combination) in which food is packaged for customer purchase, on-site and on customer demand, for the purpose of being consumed on or off the premises.

Does the report address any other types of in-store packaging?

The report recommends that staff be permitted to suggest additional in-store packaging materials that can be considered for similar packaging reduction policies.

What is the recommendation regarding plastic water bottles?

The recommendations propose that Toronto ban the sale of bottled water at City Civic Centres immediately or following the expiry of any existing contracts related to the purchase or sale of bottled water. Various City divisions are also asked to work together to develop and implement a program by December 31, 2011 that bans the sale and distribution of bottled water at all remaining City facilities, improves accessibility to tap water at all City facilities and takes into account existing contracts related to bottled water at City facilities and unique public health and safety related situations.

How much polystyrene foam and plastics could these policies divert from landfill?

According to audit data supplied by industry associations and our own City data, plastic bags, hot drink cups and polystyrene packaging take up valuable landfill space, upwards of approximately 80,000 cubic metres of landfill capacity a year. Plastic bags and takeout food containers do not degrade in landfill. While the paper part of most hot drink cups will break down in landfill over time, this degradation contributes to methane gas production.

Does the report also address packaging produced by manufacturers or distributors?

Yes, it recommends that the In-Store Packaging Working Group reconvene as a Packaging Reduction Working Group by expanding its membership to include factory packaging representatives. This Group would develop a range of options for the City to reduce this type of packaging, including a program where customers could remove factory packaging at the point-of-purchase and leave it behind at the retail location and report back on their findings.

Does the report recommend reduction management tools such as bans, taxes or deposit-return programs?

Staff explored the concept of banning all of the targeted materials but concluded it was too onerous, inconvenient and impractical for both retailers and residents. Single-use packaging should still be available provided it is compatible with the City’s recycling programs.

It would appear that currently the City of Toronto Act does not allow the City impose a sales tax on any of the three targeted in-store packaging types. Deposit-return programs are typically run at a provincial level due to the complexities of managing and administering the system. A deposit-return system at the City level would be vulnerable to border issues, difficult to administer, be open to fraud and put a burden on retailers. More details on all of these options are available in the report.

How will the City enforce these recommended policies with Toronto retailers?

Following Council’s adoption of the report’s recommendations, Solid Waste Management staff will work with appropriate staff from Municipal Licensing and Standards, Legal Services, Toronto Public Health and any other appropriate divisions, to develop wording for a by-law on enforcement protocol and recommended fines for violation, in the range of $100 - $400 per offence.



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