Local single-use items reduction strategy aligned with Government of Canada’s single-use plastics ban
Last night, Guelph Council approved a Single-Use Items Bylaw aligned with new federal regulations announced in June. The Government of Canada is banning six categories of harmful single-use plastics including checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics (e.g. polylactic acid, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene foam, oxo-degradable plastic, and black plastic made with carbon black), ring carriers used for bottles and cans, stir sticks and straws.
Federal ban on plastic straws effective December 2023
According to the new federal regulations, the manufacture and import of single-use plastic (SUP) straws for sale in Canada are banned as of December 20, 2022, and they will no longer be available for purchase by December 20, 2023. The manufacture and import of SUP flexible straws will be allowed with the following sale restrictions:
- Businesses may sell packages of 20 or more SUP flexible straws for personal or family use but retailers cannot display packages in stores;
- A business cannot require a customer to disclose whether they have a disability or a need for a SUP flexible straw;
- Restaurants cannot provide a SUP flexible straw to a customer, but a customer can bring a SUP flexible straw with them and can provide them to others in their social group at the restaurant; and
- Care institutions may continue to purchase SUP flexible straws in packages of 20 or more and provide them to patients or residents.
When Council approved the updated Waste Management Bylaw in April 2022, City staff was asked to engage with the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) to discuss the potential elimination of plastic straws by January 1, 2023. Given the new federal direction, staff is unable to recommend any bylaw measures for SUP straws as federal regulations override municipal bylaw.
All plastic shopping bags banned as of January 1, 2023
Certified compostable plastic shopping bags with a BPI or BNQ symbol were exempt from the ban on plastic shopping bags in the earlier draft bylaw. This option has been removed from the bylaw to align with the new federal regulations. The sale of packages of certified compostable bags with a BPI or BNQ symbol for organic waste collection in the City’s green carts will still be allowed.
Polystyrene foam containers and cups banned as of January 1, 2023
The City’s draft bylaw originally included several exemptions for the sale and use of polystyrene foam containers and cups such as for charitable food services during emergencies however, these exemptions have been removed from the bylaw to align with the federal regulations.
Additional bans on single-use plastics
In addition to the items listed above, the new federal regulations ban the sale of plastic cutlery, food service ware made from or containing problematic plastics, and stir sticks by December 20, 2023. Ring carriers used for bottles and cans, and flexible plastic straws packaged with beverage containers (e.g., drinking boxes) are banned as of June 20, 2024.
The regulations put forth by the federal government are a welcome complement to the City’s Solid Waste Management Master Plan and the new Single-Use Items Bylaw which together support a future-ready Guelph by taking ambitious steps to care for the environment.
As requested by Council, City staff will:
- educate residents and businesses to support understanding and compliance with the Council-approved Single-Use Items Bylaw;
- continue to work with the AAC as the federal legislation develops;
- educate residents and businesses that SUP flexible straws are still permitted in certain circumstances – it is not always easy to recognize if a person has a disability;
- provide information about the importance of sensitivity training for businesses and employees that focuses on the use of respectful, inclusive communication and not requiring a person to disclose any information if using a SUP straw;
- consider a bylaw that would require alternative bags to have two reinforced handles;
- explore the development of a program that will offer free or subsidized SUP flexible straws to those who need them to offset the costs for people with disabilities who will need to purchase these independently; and
- advocate to the federal government on the importance of certain SUP items for people with disabilities including exemptions for SUP straws.
In addition, staff is engaging the community this fall to talk about fees for single-use beverage cups and reusable bags, as requested by Council in April. Please stay tuned for more information; this survey will launch in the next couple of weeks.
Staff will report back to Council in 2023 with an engagement summary and recommendations for fees for consideration.