Plastic Bag Ban is official and what you need to know
Plastic bag ban – The problem with plastic bags is not the bags, the problem is humans. Remember the three R’s – Recycle, Reduce and Reuse, the campaign to promote responsible use of products harming our planet? It seems to have gone down the drain with all the other chemicals and waste we so freely dispose of.
Montreal’s bylaw banning ‘single-use’ plastic bags in retail stores, grocery and supermarkets, went into effect on January 1st 2018, although stores will not be fined for distributing them until June 5th – giving them time to adjust. But don’t expect them to really disappear completely. In fact, some stores will simply work around the bylaw.
How is that you ask? It’s quite simple.
The plastic bags that are banned are those thinner than 50 microns, the ones most commonly found at checkouts, or the biodegradable bags which allegedly cause even more environmental damage. Thicker plastic bags are still allowed, as well as those clear bags shoppers use for items like fruit and vegetables. And ‘thicker’ is how some stores will choose to bypass the ban.
Last week, when I stopped by an IGA supermarket to do some last minute grocery shopping, I did not have my cloth bags with me and had to use the plastic bags they offered – which cost 5 cents each. While at the checkout, a floor manager was nearby, so I turned to her and asked if the store would immediately stop offering the bags as of January 1st or slowly phase them out. Her reply was not what I expected.
“Well no,” she said. “We will still have plastic bags here… only they will be thicker ones and cost 15 cents each.”
This is how some stores will choose to work around the bylaw – by simply using thicker bags, probably around 100 microns (something like clothing stores use with the punched out handles) and have consumers pay for it.
On the bright side, thicker bags can be reused more often, so there will be less manufacturing. As well, the city says bags thicker than 50 microns are unlikely to blow away and become litter – one of the main reasons of how the thinner plastic bags have become such a problem. You can see discarded plastic bags everywhere, especially during the warmer months. They are on the sidewalks and streets, under park benches, in bus stop shelters, in bushes and even on trees. Many actually end up in our rivers and oceans through sewer systems, off beaches, ships and even by the wind.
These bags have been killing birds and other marine wildlife for decades now, as they think it is food and eat it – but it ends up blocking their intestines and they die of starvation. Plastic bags ‘photodegrade’ and it could take centuries for them to break down – in water or in landfills. So-called ‘biodegradable’ bags are just as or even more harmful. They do not actually decompose and instead breakdown into tiny pieces of plastic travelling through our ecosystems.
Every single plastic bag (and anything made of plastic for that matter) is recyclable. There are recycling bins in front of our homes and all over the city, but yet many choose to ignore them. Some people just toss them away with abandon on to the streets or with regular garbage – never mind thinking of reusing them. It really doesn’t take much to make a difference, but doing little has enormous and potentially catastrophic consequences.
And that is why the plastic bag ban might not make any difference at all – only we can.