Montreal to ban plastic shopping bags as of 2018

It's official — Montrealers will have to wean themselves off plastic bags between now and 2018.

Ban applies to lightweight plastic shopping bags as well as bags that are biodegradable

Some bags will be exempt from the ban, including ones used to carry fresh vegetables and medication. (Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian/AP)

Mayor Denis Coderre has announced the city is banning single-use plastic bags as of Jan. 1, 2018.

"You will understand that our plan is the result of extensive analysis and thoughtful reflection," Coderre said.

"Lightweight bags, which are used by the billions, are volatile and represent a clear environmental concern." 

The city is intentionally giving consumers, as well as the retail industry, nearly two years to adjust before the ban kicks in.

The ban applies to lightweight plastic shopping bags, specifically ones that are less than 50 microns (or 0.05 millimetres) thick, as well as bags that are oxo-degradable, oxo-fragmentable, oxo-biodegradable and biodegradable.

​Certain bags are exempt from the ban for hygienic reasons, such as small plastic bags used for fresh vegetables or medication.

​Coderre said he thinks Montreal's approach to the bag ban will become a model for other cities.

Six other Canadian municipalities already ban single-use plastic bags:

  • Leaf Rapids, Man.
  • Thompson, Man.
  • Huntingdon, Que.
  • Deux-Montagnes, Que.
  • Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality, Alta.
  • Brossard, Que. 

Ban follows environmental committee recommendations

Coderre's announcement comes after the city's environmental committee recommended banning the bags in December.

The 12 recommendations by the commission included:

  • That city council ban plastic bags starting on Apr. 22, 2018, in favour of reusable or recyclable bags.
  • That exceptions be made for hygienic bags used to handle food, carry medication and dry cleaning.
  • That the City of Montreal work with the Quebec government to establish industrial norms to ensure new bags are recyclable.
  • A communication plan to prepare residents and businesses for the transition.
  • Encourage the reduction of plastic water bottles, single-use plates and utensils.

The idea to ban plastic bags was first put forward by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre a little more than a year ago.