City of Toronto approves next steps to reduce single-use and takeaway items

Today, Toronto City Council approved the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy – Stage 1 report as the first stage of a Reduction Strategy to help reduce single-use and takeaway items in Toronto: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.IE22.6.

In 2018, Toronto City Council directed Solid Waste Management Services staff to develop a Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy. After two rounds of public consultation and stakeholder input, in 2018 and 2019, the City identified public support for the implementation of voluntary and mandatory measures to restrict single-use and takeaway items. Plans to present a more comprehensive Reduction Strategy to City Council in 2020 were delayed as the City focused its efforts on the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report takes into consideration the social, financial and health-related impacts of the reduction measures on Toronto residents and businesses as a result of COVID-19, as well as the Government of Canada's commitment to ban a number of single-use items being considered by the City, and therefore does not recommend proceeding with the implementation of mandatory measures such as fees, bans or bylaws at this time.

The Voluntary Measures Program will encourage businesses to voluntarily implement actions to reduce single-use and takeaway items. This includes:

  • adoption of an “ask first/by request” approach for items such bags, straws, utensils and more
  • asking businesses to consider accepting reusable takeout containers and beverage cups
  • incentives and recognition from the City of Toronto for businesses that adopt voluntary measures to reduce single-use and takeaway items.

The Voluntary Measures Program is intended to avoid placing additional financial pressures on residents and business through fees or requiring businesses to incur costs to develop and train staff on new business processes required for bylaw compliance. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants may have pivoted to a take-out and third-party delivery model and are relying on the use of single-use and takeaway items.

The Voluntary Measures Program also allows time for the City to better understand the federal government's plan to ban or restrict a list of six single-use plastic items by the end of 2021: plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics.

In December 2020, the City provided input on the Federal Discussion Paper: A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products to prevent waste and pollution: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/plastics-proposed-integrated-management-approach.html. On May 12, the federal government added "plastic manufactured items" to their list of Toxic Substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), signalling their intent to develop regulations and polices to control manufactured plastic items.

In addition, last week, the Province of Ontario released the regulation for the transition of Ontario’s Blue Box Program to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-2579. The enhanced Blue Box program will make recycling easier by accepting common single-use and packaging-like products sold for home use and by collecting single-use items that are distributed or sold to consume food and beverage products. The City will transition to EPR in July 2023.

The Voluntary Measures Program will be the first stage of the City’s Single-Use and Takeaway Reduction Strategy. Solid Waste Management Services will report back in the first quarter of 2022 with an update and action plan that includes any new considerations of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, any further implementation details and potential alignment with federal government’s proposed approach to ban or restrict single-use plastic items, implementation timeline and proposed approach for any recommended additions or mandatory measures and a review of options to incentivize businesses to reduce single-use and takeaway items.

More information about single-use and takeaway items and previous consultations can be found at www.toronto.ca/single-use.

Quotes:

“The City of Toronto remains committed to zero waste and reducing the effects of single-use and takeaway items on our environment. Until the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic can be thoroughly assessed, the next steps approved by City Council today demonstrate our commitment to doing so in a manner that is socially and financially responsible.”

– Mayor John Tory

“The Voluntary Measures Program is a good first step in helping to reduce the use and disposal of single-use and takeaway items, regardless of which waste stream (garbage, recycling or organic) they are managed in and what material they may be made of (paper, plastic, aluminum).”

– Councillor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park), Chair of the Infrastructure & Environment Committee

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