Guelph to ban single-use plastic bags and foam takeout containers next year

Guelph will ban plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam cups and takeout containers starting Jan. 1, 2023. The manager of technical services with Guelph's solid waste resources says those are among the top three litter items found during city clean ups and are items that go to the landfill.

Staff told to do more consultations before plastic straws banned

A man carries groceries in two white plastic shopping bags. Foam food containers and plastic shopping bags will be banned in the City of Guelph as of 2023. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Guelph, Ont., has banned plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam cups and takeout containers starting Jan. 1, 2023.

Councillors voted in favour of the move during a council meeting Monday.

Heather Connell, manager of technical services with Guelph's solid waste resources, said plastic bags, polystyrene foam cups and containers are among the top three litter items picked up during city clean-ups and end up in the landfill, according to the city's sorting guide.

She said the community can easily replace the items with better alternatives.

Connell said grocery stores could use paper bags and restaurants could use paper cups and containers or try a reusable takeout container program.

"We're trying to encourage behaviour change and these are the first steps," Connell said.

The banned shopping bags will include all bags made wholly or partly from plastic. That includes non-certified compostable bags and biodegradable bags. Bags certified as compostable would be exempt.

Connell said plastic bags, polystyrene foam cups and containers are among the top three litter items found during city clean ups. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

In a news release following the council decision, Jayne Holmes, the city's deputy chief administrative officer of infrastructure, development and enterprise services, said the city needs to take "bold action if we want a greener, healthier environment."

She said council's support sends a "strong signal" that it supports the city's sustainable future.

"We echo their commitment and will support our residents and businesses as these waste management changes take effect," Holmes said.

An earlier draft included plastic straws — except when requested or in certain settings, such as hospitals — but staff were directed do more consultations after concerns were raised by the city's accessibility advisory committee.

Councillors also heard about plans for a second phase in 2024 which could include a 25-cent charge for single-use coffee cups and $1 fees for reusable shopping bags, but city staff said more consultations are needed around those ideas before bringing forward a bylaw. That is due to come back to council next year.

'People do want to stop using single use items'

Last December, the federal government published draft regulations that outlined how Canada would ban similar items, as well as plastic cutlery, stir sticks, straws and six-pack rings, by the end of 2022.

Similarly, the City of Cambridge moved to phase out some some single use plastics from city facilities in 2019; items like straws, stir sticks, disposable plastic cups and lids.

As phase one begins in Guelph, Connell said staff will be engaging with the community, businesses and restaurants on the changes coming next year and what alternatives are available. 

"People do want to stop using single use items and are looking forward to ways they can do that," Connell said.

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled "Our Changing Planet" to show and explain the effects of climate change. Keep up with the latest news on our Climate and Environment page.


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