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Which Bag?
On June 6th this year Toronto City Council became the first from ...
17-10-2012 16:33
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On June 6th this year Toronto City Council became the first from Canadian cities to vote for a ban of plastic bags  “to prohibit all City of Toronto retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar” starting January 1st 2013. The ban was confronted with criticism from the city mayor Rob Ford, who called the ban “ludicrous”. Mr. Ford wasn’t the only one against the ban, as many citizens, retail stores and companies like Ontario Convenience Stores Association were disgruntled and voiced concerns.
The ban had to face a legal challenge and was proposed to be reconsidered on the October 3rd council meeting. However, the council failed to gather sufficient number of votes to postpone the ban  as the law requires  two-third of councillors to vote against for the ban to be cancelled.
The ban was proposed in light of recent experience of U.S. cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. Similar bans exist in European countries, in cities of Australia, China, Mexico , Bolivia and Argentina, primarily in cities on the oceanic coast where plastic waste poses threat for marine life.  San Francisco was the first to hold the experiment in US and after several years went as far as enforcing full ban on plastic bag sales in supermarkets and other retail stores also on the basis of the latter causing irrevocable harm to the marine life on the coastal areas. Los Angeles has passed the similar law recently.
Most of these places have replaced the plastic bags with paper bags, which do not pose the threat for coastal animals, but require more energy to produce, are more costly to recycle,  create more airborne emissions, and occupy more landfill volume, according  to Franklin Associates, Ltd.
This has led some to propose using a reusable canvas bag for shopping in the supermarkets. The study made by Australian researchers has shown that from the energy standpoint,  canvas bags were 14 times better than plastic bags and 39 times better than paper bags, assuming that canvas bags are used 500 times during their life cycle, which is perhaps overestimated.  The proponents argue that it would save customers from paying 5 cents for a bag every time and prevent the accumulation of plastic waste. However, this view has also met some criticism stemming from argument that reusable bag after some period becomes contaminated and thus poses danger of spreading microbes to the food as opposed to plastic bags which are pretty safe in this regard.
The city of Toronto, although not located near the ocean, can still boast an aquatic life of the Ontario lake, which as some argue, may be threatened by the waste. The opponents of the ban, however, say it is the garbage collection that should be proper to avoid plastic waste.
As arguments continue, the city is getting ready as ban is coming into force in January.
1)      Treehugger : “Paper Bags or Plastic Bags? Everything You Need to Know” July 2008
2)      American Chemistry Council research  “Resource and Environmental Profile Analysis of Polyethylene and Unbleached Paper Grocery Sacks”
3)      Toronto Star

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17-10-2012 16:33
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