The choppy rollout of single-use plastic bans

If the rollout of the national plastics ban feels a bit chaotic, well, that’s because it is. 

Driving the news: Under a new bylaw effective today, Toronto businesses will have to ask customers if they want single-use plastic items like utensils, straws, napkins, paper bags, and plastic containers with their takeaway orders, or else face fines from $500 up to $100,000.

Catch-up: In 2022, the federal government implemented a nationwide ban on some single-use plastic items, with the goal of eliminating plastic waste by 2030. Several provinces, territories, and municipalities have since introduced their own rules to align with this goal.

  • Calgary recently became the first Canadian city to roll back its ban on single-use plastics, only two weeks after the ban went into effect.

  • And at this point, what is and isn’t allowed has been complicated by a federal court ruling that deemed the designation underlying the ban “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”  

Why it matters: Businesses have been moving towards reusables since before the ban, but the challenges of high costs, sourcing issues, and the general lack of suitable alternatives to conventional plastics (read: paper straws that don’t disintegrate into your pop) still persist. 

Bottom line: Most people agree that less waste is better, but the plastics ban rollout has been confusing for everyone involved, and patchy regulation across jurisdictions hasn’t helped. Until a clear path forward emerges, be sure to hold onto your reusable Metro bags.—JK, SB