Toronto wants to expand the plastics content of its curbside recycling program at the same time that it is discouraging plastics use.
The city's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee unveiled Nov. 4 packaging proposals that benefit and hurt plastics recycling. While the ideas would add materials to the Blue Box program, they would put the onus on retailers to encourage consumers to use less plastic through incentives.
The works committee will meet Nov. 12 to vote on the proposals. If approved, they will go before City Council.
Under the plans, city curbside pickup programs would add polyethylene retail bags to the city's recycling stream beginning Dec. 8. Unacceptable bags would be those with grommets or other nonpolyethylene materials, and those that are compostable or biodegradable that could contaminate recycling streams.
``Compostable bags turn into dirt,'' said Geoff Rathbone, who created the plans and is general manager of solid waste management services for Toronto, at a Nov. 4 news conference. ``We want to reuse plastic.''
By June 1, Toronto's retailers would need to provide a C$0.10 (US$0.085) discount per plastic bag not used by the consumer. Retailers would have to allow consumers to use reusable bags.
On June 1, hot-drink retailers would have to provide a minimum discount of C$0.20 (US$0.17) off the price of a drink in a reusable or refillable cup. By Dec. 31, 2009, Toronto would ban single-use drink cups that aren't compatible with recycling programs. The ban would include paper cups with plastic lids.
``A discount is better than a fee,'' said Glenn De Baeremaeker, chair of the works committee. ``We want retailers to reward good behavior.''
A retailer group disagrees.
``We're not supportive of the incentives,'' said Kim McKinnon, vice president for Ontario of the Canadian Council for Grocery Distributors of Montreal.
``Members are already putting in incentives, each doing what makes them competitive,'' McKinnon added.
Some incentives merchants are offering include rebates smaller than Toronto's proposed rebates, Air Mile points and points for other loyalty plans, McKinnon said.
Beginning Dec. 8, the city will start accepting foamed polystyrene takeout containers, cups and packaging that do not contain non-PS materials that could affect recycling. Not included are clear or colored, non-foamed PS food containers and those based on other plastics.
The Environment and Plastics Industry Council in Mississauga, Ontario, lauded expanded recycling programs but said the city hasn't gone far enough.
``They should be adding rigid polystyrene like other municipalities do,'' EPIC Vice President Cathy Cirko said in an interview. She said several other Ontario municipalities now accept rigid PS packaging, including Kingston, Niagara, Barrie and Belleville.
``What has to happen is for Toronto to put in the necessary sorting equipment, which will allow it to improve its recycling performance,'' she said in a news release.
Toronto is pushing retailers to come up with reusable packaging for takeout food by Dec. 31, 2010, and make it an option for consumers. EPIC and other groups contest the plan, citing health and safety concerns. The city will update progress on such packaging early in 2011.
Circo called that approach ``playing Russian roulette with the safety of residents.''
The incentives on bags and drinking cups would exceed the cost of packaging and make retailers less competitive than their nearby rivals, according to Circo.
The committee also addressed plastic water bottles, which the city would ban immediately at city facilities as contracts allow. There is also a plan to improve accessibility of tap water.
The Toronto packaging proposals are a small part of the city's aim to divert 70 percent of its solid waste from landfills by 2010. In 2007 the diversion rate was 42 percent. The packaging proposals address less than 1 percent of the solid waste stream.