The180

Is it time to ban the bag?

Montreal is considering a ban on plastic bags. We hear from an American city which has already implemented a ban, and from a plastic bag proponent.
Listen11:40

Montreal is considering a ban on plastic bags. If the idea goes ahead, Montreal would become the first major Canadian metropolis to adopt such a measure. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre supports the idea, but is looking forward to public consultations to further clarify the issue.

But retailers and people in the plastics industry say the targeting plastic bags is misguided.

"It solves no problem and will create others," says Pierre Dubois of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.

Dubois says that despite their image as disposable trash generators, plastic bags are typically re-used more than once by consumers. He points to studies that show re-usable shopping bags actually have a bigger environmental footprint over the life cycle than plastic checkout bags.

He believes that consumers and retailers should be free to choose.

Mike O'Brien says that if Montreal does adopt the ban, consumers won't miss the ubiquitous single use bags.

Frankly the plastic bag industry on this one is fighting what seems to be a losing battle and that's great for the environment and great for our waste stream.

O'Brien is a city councilmember in Seattle and led the push to ban the bags in that city. He said businesses and industry groups raised all kinds of concerns when the ordinance was first proposed - everything from fears of higher prices to overwhelming amounts of dog feces in public parks.

But three years on, he says the critics are seldom heard.

"Frankly the plastic bag industry on this one is fighting what seems to be a losing battle and that's great for the environment and great for our waste stream."

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