It’s tough being Rob Ford these days.
This week, the beleaguered Toronto Mayor went before council to try to nix the bylaw that requires stores to charge 5 cents for plastic shopping bags. What he wasn’t expecting was that by bringing the motion forward, he opened the door for another Councillor to move that Toronto ban plastic bags from retailers entirely – and to Ford’s utter disbelief, that motion passed. As a result, Toronto will officially outlaw plastic bags entirely – even those which claim to be compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or otherwise environmentally friendly – from January 1 of next year.
In something of a Pyrrhic victory, Ford did manage to get the 5 cent fee nixed, meaning retailers can hand out plastic bags to their heart’s content for the remainder of 2012. But after that, it’s non-plastic bags or no bags at all.
Toronto wouldn’t be the first city to outlaw plastic bags. Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the entire state of South Australia have banned them, with the world remarkably not coming to an end and people in those areas still able to shop.
The surprise move was not exactly well planned in advance. There was no consultation with public or environmental groups on what the move could mean. Predictably, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association slammed the move, saying that “bags are not an environmental problem” (um, what?) and that there will be “no winners”, not even the environment.
The move left Mayor Ford embarrassed and typically bombastic. “It’s the dumbest thing council has done and council has done some dumb things let me tell you,” Ford told a morning radio station, declaring the ban would hurt taxpayers and the city’s economy and would probably get the city sued.
Or it could make Toronto a leader in environmental causes. Too early to tell.
With between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags consumed and discarded annually worldwide, directly killing wildlife, consuming petroleum and leaching petrochemicals in to the soil as they slowly decompose, and with the average plastic bag actually being used for mere minutes before it’s tossed, they are a true hallmark of our disposable culture, and one that is easily phased out of everyday life with minor lifestyle changes.
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