Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said last month that the five cent fee for single-use plastic bags in the city could be gone by the end of the year. The five cent fee was initially implemented to persuade shoppers to make the switch to more environmentally friendly reusable bags. The bylaw has been in place since June 1st, 2009.
The fee is sometimes referred to as the “plastic bag tax”, which is incorrect because the money does not go to the government. The money instead goes to the store to be used however they wish. Critics, including Ford, have said the money should be going to environmental initiatives or that customers should at least have an idea of how their money is being spent. However, there are a few big businesses who have been putting the plastic bag money to good use. Home Depot and Shoppers Drug Mart have donated to sustainable housing projects and cancer research, respectively. The Toronto Environmental Alliance has been given plastic bag money from two businesses, but local businesses, not chain stores.
In the end, it’s only five cents. If shoppers don’t have reusable bags or forgot them in the car, a five cent fee is not likely to make them rush out to their cars and get them. And, many businesses were charging five cents or more before the fee was implemented, and many could continue once the fee is no longer mandatory. A plastic bag ban would be the only way to fully remove the problem single-use plastic bags create for our cities.
Reusable bags are strong and won’t rip when carrying heavy items. They’re safer because they’re machine washable, and reusable bags can hold far more than their wasteful counterparts. Best of all, they’re much better for the environment. It’s likely those who already use reusable bags have discovered how convenient they are and will continue to use them whether the fee is kept or not.
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