Montreal Is Already Bag Smart
The City does an excellent job managing plastic shopping bags so much so that the bags are a fraction of the waste stream at 0.27% and represent less than 1% of litter. 93% of all bags are reused and recycled. Their 3R’s performance is outstanding – a 52% + reduction in the number of bags distributed, 60% of the bags are reused two or more times and 33% of the bags are recycled.
What to Look for When Developing a Bag Policy
Environmental Impact of Bag Policies
Any smart policy on the management of thin plastic shopping bags needs to examine how people use bags in their daily lives; what will be substituted if the bags are removed from the market; and what net environmental impact will follow on their removal. Bags are a necessity. Does the policy benefit or harm the environment? Read more>>
Reduction – The Number of Bags Being Distributed Continues to Shrink
The market continues to work hard at reducing the number of bags distributed, with the Province and the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) reporting a 52% reduction in the number of bags distributed in Quebec. Grocery stores report a 76% reduction. Whatever Montreal is doing now, works. Read more>>
Reuse – Debunking the Single Use Myth
The biggest mistake often made on bag policy is the assumption that plastic shopping bags are single use when in fact, they are multi-purpose, multi-use bags with 60% or more of the bags reused two or more times. What is this secondary use and will a substitute generate more waste and more greenhouse gas emissions? Read more>>
Recycling – Plastic Shopping Bags are 100% Recyclable
Unlike reusable bags, thin plastic shopping bags are not only 100% recyclable and can be recycled in Quebec, but most contain recycled content. 93% of all bags distributed in Montreal are reused and recycled. 33% of the bags distributed are recycled and can now be remanufactured into new green products – a $2 billion a year market. Read more>>
Alternatives – To Replace Thin Plastic Bags
The alternatives to plastic shopping bags are not better for the environment. Whether it is paper, plastic or reusable, all bags have an environmental impact. Some can be recycled; some cannot. Find out why non-biodegradable is a good thing. Read more>>
Alternatives – Reusables Are not Quite the Panacea Hoped For
While reusables have done a great job removing non-essential thin plastic grocery bags from the market, they have their limitations in that they are manufactured in Asia, while thin plastic shopping bags are made locally. And most important, reuseable bags cannot be recycled in Quebec – a solution needs to be found. Read more>>
Global Warming Potential – The Science
Any decision made in the name of the environment should be based on science and analysis of the global warming impacts of each type of bag – plastic, paper and reusables. What is the net environmental impact? For example, a cotton bag has to be reused 131 times to match the environmental impact of a thin plastic bag used just once. Check out which bags have the lowest global warming impact. Read more>>
Economic Impact of a Bag Ban
There are no winners economically if bags are banned. Everyone loses – residents, retailers, convenience stores, the bag industry and most important the environment. For bag manufacturers, it is closures and job losses. For residents, it means millions in higher food costs because of the proposed thicker 50 micron grocery bag and it will cost more to manage household waste as a much as a 140% increase; for the environment, it will mean more plastic in the system not less. An economic impact study is needed. Read more>>
The 3R’s versus Bag Bans
What works better as a source reduction strategy? We know that the 3R’s is highly effective in Quebec to manage bags and reduce their numbers. Proof is the success of the Province’s 2008 Public Education and Voluntary Reduction Program focused on the 3R’s which reduced the number of bags distributed by 52%. The overwhelming public policy choice across Canada over the past 10 years has been public education and the 3R’s. There are few bag bans in Canada. Find out why. Read more>>
In the past 10 years, over 100 communities and associations in Quebec and the rest of Canada investigated different approaches to managing plastic shopping bags. And all rejected bans in favour of voluntary, cooperative approaches focused on public education and the 3R’s.
The 2008-2010 Quebec Public Awareness and Voluntary Reduction Program is a great example of what works. This program resulted in a 52% reduction in the number of bags distributed in Quebec in just two years of the five year reduction program.
Successful bag management policies incorporate the following:
- The use of science and fact particularly on decisions made in the name of the environment;
- A clear understanding of how people use different bags; bags are a practical necessity;
- Analysis and discussion of intended and unintended consequences of any bag policy on the environment, the economy, and society; what is the net environmental gain.
- A focus on ongoing and sustainable behaviour change based on product stewardship and the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle);
- Public education;
- Cooperation and collaboration – government, industry, retailers, and consumers working together.