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Public works committee debates plastic bag ban

The city’s public works committee is continuing to debate the plastic bag ban on Wednesday, including a suggested six-month grace period for retailers.

Toronto city staffers have drafted a bylaw that prohibits “Single-Use Plastic Carryout (Shopping) Bags.” If the bylaw is enacted, the ban will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Council already approved the ban during a surprise motion from Coun. David Shiner at a meeting in June. In September, councillors agreed to do further consultations on the ban.

Retailers and representatives from the plastics industry as well as environmental activists are speaking at Wednesday’s public works committee meeting.

Staff suggests that retailers be allowed to phase out their bag use and that fines should be withheld for the first six months.

“This isn’t consultation,” Gary Sands, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, told the committee.

Sands said the sudden way the bag ban was introduced did not allow for proper input from retailers, especially grocers.

Coun. Gord Perks said that Wednesday’s meeting was looking for advice on how to implement the bylaw, not changes on the ban.

“You have no advice for the City of Toronto? We should just take this as satisfactory?” Perks asked.

“No, you’ve told us you built the car and know you want us to talk about the upholstery,” Sands said.

Sands argued that retailers are not allowed to sell plastic bags at the cash register, but they can be purchased off the shelf – like Glad and Ziploc bags.

With the bag ban, Toronto joins other major centres, such as San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, which have already implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags.

In April 2007, the tiny community of Leaf Rapids, Man., was the first community in Canada to ban the bags.