Plastic bag fee earns its keep
Mayor Rob Ford is unfortunately signalling an intention to trash Toronto’s five cent “tax” on plastic bags by the end of this year, even as the mandatory fee’s second anniversary approaches on Wednesday. That’s short sighted. Tossing out this measure would hurt both the environment and the city.
Like much of Ford’s agenda, his opposition to the mandatory fee seems based more on small government sentiment and raw populist emotion than any sound policy a replica watches uk nalysis. If the fee were judged strictly on its merits, its preservation would be, well, in the bag.
Contrary to terminology favoured by the fee’s opponents, this is not a tax. None of the money raised through the nickel charge goes into the city’s coffers. Moreover the fee is easily avoided. There are plenty of alternatives to receiving a new plastic bag whenever making a purchase, including deploying a reusable bag, a basket, a box or a grocery bin. With a little foresight there’s scarcely any need to pay this fee at all.
There’s evidence that a great many Torontonians are adopting that sensible approach. At the end of last year, an umbrella group of grocery distributors estimated that the number of bags issued at its Toronto stores had dropped by 70 per cent. That impact was underlined by Sobeys Ontario spokesperson Tracy Chisholm on Friday. She said the supermarket chain cut bag usage by 72 per cent province wide after it implemented a fee. Loblaws, too, reports a 73 per cent drop nationwide.
In short far from being a “feel good failure” the fees do exactly what they’re supposed to do: dramatically cut usage.
That success is precisely what Ford risks throwing away by ending the mandatory policy. Yes, individual retailers would still be free to impose their own fee to deter use, but the city wide commitment would suffer. And that matters. Two years ago, before the replica watches uk fee was put in place, Torontonians used some 460 million plastic bags each year. Almost all of them ended up in landfill or blowing around as litter.
Since then, Toronto has accepted plastic bags for recycling, so the landfill burden wouldn’t be as great. But the greenest way to deal with bags, by far, is to avoid taking them home in the first place. Furthermore, litter would no doubt increase in parks and streets if people were to fall back into the habit of collecting, and discarding, free bags.
At present, retailers can use the money they collect any way they wish. Responsible merchants, like Sobeys, plow it ba replica watches uk ck into green causes. The chain has established a community environment fund that has provided 50 organizations across Ontario with more than $800,000 since 2009, and Sobeys is to announce additional grants shortly. It’s not alone. Other big grocery chains help fund non profit environmental causes.
So, in summary, here’s what Ford will achieve by killing the bag fee: he’ll increase litter, replica watches uk boost the needless manufacture of environmentally unfriendly bags, and potentially hurt charitable causes.