Toronto might consider a tax on plastic bags to cut down on the amount of packaging in the city's garbage.
Toronto Councilor Glenn De Baeremaeker said he wants the city to go beyond an earlier plan to collect plastic bags in its blue box curbside recycling program next year. One idea is to tax retail stores on the number of bags they hand out to customers.
``We are puzzled by this,'' said Cathy Cirko, vice president of environment and health for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, in Mississauga, Ontario.
``We have been working with city staff on recycling, to add bags [to the blue box program] in 2008. Bags are recyclable and the infrastructure is in place.''
De Baeremaeker said the tax proposal would be in addition to curbside bag recycling. He said the city should tackle waste using all three Rs - reducing waste, recycling it and reusing it.
Cirko said plastic bags constitute less than 1 percent of the waste stream and cutting their usage would provide little benefit to Toronto's aggressive waste-reduction targets. Toronto Mayor David Miller wants 70 percent of household waste diverted from landfills by 2010. The current diversion rate is about 40 percent.
Cutting back on plastics is not the main thrust of the city's waste reduction plan, De Baeremaeker said in a telephone interview.
``We are looking at everything, right down to dental floss,'' he said. ``Collecting and recycling is good, but we can do more on reduction.''
De Baeremaeker is a prominent local environmental activist who also is the new chairman of the city's public works and infrastructure committee. In addition to discussing bag reduction with retail stores, he said he wants to talk about plastic packaging waste reduction with takeout-food companies.
A spokeswoman with grocery retailer giant Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said it is too early to discuss bag specifics, but her company ``has always been concerned with the environment.''
``Looking at the number of bags is a natural thing as we look at our responsibility to customers, our communities and, on a grander scale, the world we live in,'' said Elizabeth Margles from Loblaw's head office in Brampton, Ontario.
Researchers for Toronto's public works committee will submit their waste reduction recommendations in summer.