Sustainability

Will a Plastic Bag Ban Hold Water?

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 03, 2007

I groaned audibly when I read Monday's front page article in the Spectator about the waste reduction task force proposal to ban plastic bags in Hamilton.

I can only imagine what it will look like once Hamilton's vampiric City Council has finished sucking all the blood out of it.

So far, we have an idling ban that doesn't ban idling, a pesticide ban that doesn't ban pesticides, and a one container garbage limit that doesn't limit garbage to one container.

Based on our track record, I can only assume we'll end up with a plastic bag ban that doesn't take effect until 2010, has no effective enforcement, and in any case exempts all the typical reasons to use a plastic bag.

The Unambitous City, indeed.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 09:03:20

I'm surprised council hasn't recommended overturning the smoking bylaw let. If we're going to be an unhealthy, polluted city we might as well go all the way.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 09:17:52

I had precisely the same thought when I woke up this morning and read the Spec. They'll ban plastic bags, sure - except in those cases where a plastic bag is required to carry something.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 09:45:55

So question...they ban plastic bags. I go to Food Basics to get groceries and forget my resusable grocery bags at home. It's monday and all the boxes are gone... Now what? I have to make several trips to get my groceries to my car? Whatever happened to paper bags? My mom used to come home with groceries in paper bags all the time. Used them in the garbage can (makes you take out the garbage more often :) ) and they're recyclable. Right now, when I put my newspapers in the recycle bin I have a choice of tying them up with string or putting them in a plastic bag. I used to put them in paper bags. What's wrong with this picture?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 10:30:09

I would assume that grocery stores would have paper bags in them. I don't think everyone would be required to buy the re-usable ones (although they are ridiculously simple for those who don't own any...bring em to the store and the cashier packs your groceries in there instead of plastic). I'm guessing a plastic bag ban would mean that we would see a return of paper bags. Which is fine by me.

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 11:01:57


When telling the cashier the other day that I would carry out my 8 items as is (no bags) - he proceeded to give me a paper bag.

Very cool! But yah - cloth bags are the way to go!

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By jon dalton (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 13:29:49

I noticed the liquor store has changed their policy of bagging by default - a sign informs customers that they may request a bag if they want one. Some time ago I noticed they had these tally sheets to keep track of which customers asked them for a paper bag, plastic bag or no bag, and was surprised at how many tick marks were under no bag. Thought I was the only one.

When I was there this weekend, the guy proceeded to bag all my stuff anyways. Nonetheless I was impressed at their initiative. This is another case of the LCBO being leaders in recycling and sustainability. Hopefully it will serve as an example and the city will follow suit.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 03, 2007 at 14:23:41

I have reusable ones, I just go shopping on my way home from work whenever I need stuff and I usually forget them at home in the morning. I don't think the Food Basics by my place has paper bags. (I'll check tonight)

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2007 at 15:22:05

How long will it be before we see giant sized gargabe bags, or people dropping their extra bags in front of someone elses house or by the side of the road in the dead of night. Personally I have always had only one bag of garbage besides the green bin and blue box which holds a weeks worth of Hamilton Spectator newspapers held together in one of those plastic bags from the grocery store. Wouldn't it be easier for them (grocery stores) to stop using them and go back to paper bags like they used to use? At least they are bio-degradable compared to those hideous bags we see stuck in trees and blowing around in the wind.

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 20:42:03

Paper bags and the processes to produce them are arguably more harmful to the environment than plastic. Other alternatives include corn-based grocery bags that feel just like plastic but are completely compostable. They do cost more, but nothing a 5-10 cent charge can't cover.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 09:37:50

Corn-based grocery bags...i see them all over the place. No one will ever use them unless they're out there. People won't switch to using another type of bag unless it's more economical AND easier for them.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 09:39:39

Hey Mark, last time you shopped for garbage bags, where'd you go? There are giant sized garbage bags and they've been around for ages. If you're worried about people putting trash in front of your place, sit on your front porch with a shotgun on garbage day eve.

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