Plastic bag ban sought by Ontario MP

An Ontario MP will introduce a private member's bill Monday that will seek to ban plastic shopping bags across the country.

An Ontario MP will introduce a private member's bill Monday that will seek to ban plastic shopping bags across the country.

London-Fanshawe New Democrat Irene Mathyssen said many Canadians have already switched to reusable bags or leftover shipping boxes made from recyclable cardboard.

"I can remember a time when there weren't plastic bags and we managed very well," she said, then described a recent trip to Europe where she saw people using portable shopping carts instead of plastic bags.


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"It works for them, and I think it could work for us too, because we've become addicted to plastic, or our society has, but it hasn't always been there," she said.

San Francisco and the Manitoba community of Leaf Rapids trashed the plastic bag three years ago. Parts of India banned the manufacture, sale and use of all plastic bags, saying they choke drainage systems during monsoon season.

Toronto has imposed a five-cent charge per bag, and many clothing stores have since cut out the plastic in favour of paper bags.

Mathyssen's bill stems from the winning entry of a contest that asked high school students how they would improve Canada.

Hannah DeBoer and Miranda Van Rooyen, both grade 11 students in London, Ont., submitted the entry, calling for an end to plastic bag use.

Mathyssen said a committee chose their idea because they did a large amount of research.

They wrote that plastic bags are made of non-renewable petroleum, and end up in landfills or oceans where they can kill animals, she said.

"They had fulfilled their obligations, and this was my obligation to table what was decided in terms of the best bill that had come forward and to show that I do take [the teens] seriously," said Mathyssen.

Allen Langdon of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors said an outright ban isn't the best approach to reducing plastic bag use. He suggests retailer incentives like loyalty points or rebates are a better way of encouraging shoppers to make the switch.

"I think the options are out there and I think retailers are doing their best to educate consumers, and I think over time that's going to have a positive effect," he said.

He said plastic bags don't make up a large amount of the trash in landfills, and many are often reused for garbage or pet waste.

He said the council currently has agreements with British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario to reduce plastic bag use by 50 per cent.