Disposable plastic bags are officially banned in Montreal

MONTREAL — Montrealers who have not yet got into the habit of dragging their reusable bags may have a bad surprise when they arrive at the checkout of their favorite shops, since disposable plastic bags have been officially banned since Tuesday in the city. metropolis.

Announced last year by Mayor Valérie Plante, the measure aimed at abolishing single-use plastic objects is gradually coming into effect. Starting with the bag ban this Tuesday, then many other items will follow next March, including plates, containers and lids, cups or glasses, straws and utensils.

As for plastic bags, the ban applies to all types, whether biodegradable, compostable or non-degradable. Exceptions remain, however, for bags used for the hygienic transport of foodstuffs within a business.

The ban applies to all retail businesses as well as to all catering businesses in all boroughs.

By violating the regulations, people are exposed to fines varying between $200 and $1,000 for a first offense or $300 and $2,000 for a repeat offence. In the case of a legal entity, the fines can vary between $400 and $2,000 for a first offense or $500 and $4,000 for a repeat offence.

In the case of grocery stores, it seems that the transition has already been underway for a while and that the shock should not be felt too much. According to the president and general manager of the Quebec Food Retailers Association (ADA), Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, most Montreal retailers had already started removing the bags a few weeks or even months ago.

What facilitates the transition, underlines Mr. Blouin, is the abundance of alternative options since one can turn to paper bags, cardboard boxes or reusable bags. Moreover, since the decision was announced a year ago, traders were able to prepare. Moreover, the ADA says that it appreciated the way the City of Montreal did things in the process, especially with regard to consultations with businesses.

It remains all the same that “all traders are not necessarily equal”, wishes to specify Pierre-Alexandre Blouin. “Some small traders may be more worried, less ready, or their customers may be less aware,” he says.

In general, the other traders were also ready for this famous day. The general manager of the Association of Commercial Development Companies of Montreal (ASDCM), Billy Walsh, points out that since the rule applies to all merchants, everyone is on an equal footing. Moreover, the burden of finding an alternative rests on the customer.

According to data provided by the Montreal Metropolitan Community, it was estimated a few years ago that approximately two billion shopping bags, mainly made of plastic, were distributed each year in Quebec. Given the demographic weight of Montreal, its share of bags is obviously very heavy.

Obstacles ahead

It is the next phase of bans that promises to be more difficult to face. The CEO of the ADA stresses the need to find effective and accessible replacement options before proceeding with the withdrawal of a packaging product.

“Consumers are very sensitive to price these days, so it’s important to have alternatives and to be able to order them,” says Mr. Blouin, who also recalls the importance of making customers aware of the change.

In the case of food retailers, meals prepared on site and ready-to-eat are taking up more and more space and « we can’t do without these new trends », says the CEO of ADA.

Some merchants have started to turn to cardboard products or more resistant, and therefore reusable, plastic products, but the solutions do not seem as obvious as with shopping bags.

Same speech on the side of Billy Walsh who calls for flexibility, a buffer period and support before the entry into force of the next phase. He reminds us that entrepreneurs have only been taking the hard knocks for two years and that the moment may not be ideal.

“I think there is never a good “timing” to be able to put measures like these and I think there will never be a good “timing” to work on the ecological transition. But with a pandemic, inflation and a scarcity of labor… We could talk about something like that”, he pleads.

For Mr. Walsh, the keys to a successful transition are “flexibility, education and personalized communication” with merchants. He suggests that financial assistance could also be welcome.

At the federal level, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced last June that Canada would gradually ban, starting in December, the manufacture, sale and import of take-out containers, stir sticks, retail, cutlery and most straws.

Rings used to hold beverage cans or bottles together will be banned from manufacture and import in June 2023, then from sale in June 2024. Exports of all of these products are due to end in December 2025. A group of manufacturers are challenging however this regulation in court.

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