Toronto Plastic Bags

The City of Toronto Reverses Plastic Bag Ban

Nov. 28, 2012 - Toronto City Council voted overwhelmingly, 38 to 7, to reverse the ban on plastic single-use shopping bags. As a result, the by-law will not go into effect on January 1, 2013. CPIA is pleased that council made the responsible decision to not proceed with the by-law.  CPIA encourages the continued responsible use of all plastic products including plastic shopping bags through the practice of the 3R's - reduce, reuse and recycle.

The City of Toronto Has an Environmental Solution for Plastic Bags


Topics in this section:

The Toronto Solution
How It Works
Green Bin Organics
Blue Bin
Products Made From Recycled Plastic Bags
Green Jobs for Ontarians
Are Reusables Better than Traditional Bags?
The Benefits of Plastic Shopping Bags

The Toronto Solution

  • One of the most sophisticated recovery systems in Canada.
  • Creating green jobs locally.  

Here’s How it Works

Green Bin Organics


Blue Bin 




The Bags are re-manufactured into new products

Examples of Products Made From Recycled Plastic Shopping Bags     

Plastic Wood in a Toronto Boardwalk  Plastic Muskoka Chairs    
imgCuCfpkOsZP.png imgLeRtSaeafk.png


Green Jobs for Ontarians  


Are Reusables Really Better Than Traditional Bags?


On reuse: The answer is ‘Yes”. 

On recycling: The answer is “No”.

Are reusables more sanitary and a healthier choice for consumers?: The answer is “No”.



Benefits of Plastic Shopping Bags:

  • Plastic bags are used to recover organics in the Green Bin.  
  • Clean unused plastic bags are recovered through the Blue Bin .
  • The Blue Bin bags are sent to local EFS plastics for Recycling.   
  • Bags are ground up and pellets are sold to manufacturers to use to make new products -- outdoor furniture, office supplies, water pipes, indoor flooring, plastic wood.   
  • Plastic bags are used to divert organic household and pet waste from landfill.
  • The bags remove the `yuk’ factor to encourage greater participation.
  • Organics take up 33% of Toronto’s landfill making diversion and recycling a “must”.
  • Over ½ million households have green bins the program is being rolled out to apartments and multi-residential buildings.
  • Clean, empty plastic bags are recovered in the blue bin.
  • In Toronto, 44% of the bags are reused to recycle organics, 41% are reused for household waste and 15% are recycled.
    (Source City of Toronto 2010/2011 Waste Audit)           
  • Plastic bags were added to the blue bin in December 2009.
  • Major retailers also offer take-back-to-retail programs for bags.  
  • The plastic bags are recycled locally.
  • EFS-Plastics in Elmira (near Toronto) takes Toronto’s clean used plastic bags collected in the blue bin and recycles them.
  • The bags are washed, and ground up into pellets which are then sold to manufacturers who use them in the manufacturing processes to make new plastic products - water pipes, outdoor furniture, office supplies, flooring, and plastic wood.
  • There is a strong network of recyclers for plastic bags and film across Canada – Merlin Plastics in Western Canada, Inteplast in Atlantic Canada as well as many other recyclers are more than happy to recycle the bags.  
  • Recycled bags end up in a wide range of products from useful to fun -- like the plastic lumber being used to build Toronto boardwalks.
  • One 2" x 6" x 16' composite board uses about 2,250 plastic shopping bags.
  • Demand for recycled plastic bags and film is so great, that supply cannot keep up.
  • The plastic composite market is growing at 14% a year and estimated at $1 billion.            
  • 10,000+ Ontarians are employed in the manufacture of plastic shopping bags.
  • 185 companies manufacture bags in Ontario. 50% concentrated in the Toronto area.
  • 90% of grocery bags are made in Ontario creating local employment.  
  • Also Ontario-made traditional bags can be recycled locally and reused in the manufacturing of a wide variety of products ... creating even more manufacturing jobs for Ontarians.  
  • Almost all reusable bags sold in Ontario are manufactured mainly in China.
  • Reusable bags cannot be recycled locally and either end up in the landfill as waste once they have finished their useful life as a carry bag or they are sent back to China to be recycled; more often they are used for energy from waste.              
  • There is no question that reusables last longer, but the issue is one of choice.
  • For those who do not have time to wash and dry their reusable bags frequently to avoid bacterial cross contamination of their food, or shop spontaneously, or  use bags for household garbage which are cheaper than kitchen catchers, or want to be able to recycle their carry bags, traditional plastic bags are a better choice.  
  • See Health Canada 
  • Reusable bags are not quite as “eco-friendly” as reported.  
  • Reusables are not recyclable in North America and end up in the landfill as waste when consumers are finished with them.
  • A recent audit of recyclers undertaken in Quebec provided strong evidence that reusables are not recyclable and end up as waste in landfill.[1]
  • Why? The bags are produced mainly in China and are designed primarily to be attractive not recyclable.  
  • There are no standards guiding their manufacture; some contain mixed materials some of which are recyclable and some are not; some contain grommets that must be removed before recycling making recycling expensive and time consuming.  
  • The result is that the bags at the end of their useful life are either sent to the dump as garbage or exported back to China where they are burned for their energy.
  • While reusables perform well on reuse, they can pose a health risk from repeated use if not washed and dried frequently unlike first-use traditional plastic bags which provide a sterile environment.  
  • The concern is the build up of harmful bacteria from meat juices and fresh produce on the inside of the bag which can cross-contaminate any food placed in the bags unless it is wrapped or put into a plastic produce bags.
  • There is mounting evidence that reusable bags provide a perfect medium for the growth of this bacteria unless washed frequently. (See A Microbiological Study of Reusable Grocery Bags)
  •  Visit the Health Canada website for food safety tips and how to protect your health. or search "Health Canada plastic shopping bags".
  • Plastic shopping bags are an important tool in our daily lives. They provide a safe, convenient, hygenic and affordable way to transport groceries.  
  • For those who live in high rise apartments, shop spontaneously, do not have a car or room to store multiple reusables, need a safer, more sanitary option for their health, or do not have the time to wash and dry their reusables, plastic bags are often a better choice.
  • For those who live in apartments, plastic bags are an essential tool to manage household waste.
  • They help eliminate the need to purchase kitchen catchers for our household garbage. Kitchen catchers contain 76% more plastic than a traditional plastic shopping bag.  
  • Pieces of frozen natural gas, plastic shopping bags can be reused many times and then recycled.
  • 93% of Canadians reuse their plastic bags two or more times – as lunch or storage bags, as packing material, to carry wet swim suits or to pick up after pets.  
  • In Toronto, 44% of the bags are reused to recycle organics, 41% are reused for household waste and 15% are recycled. (Source City of Toronto 2010/2011 Waste Audit)      
  • Plastic shopping bags represent 0.13% of litter in Toronto and less than 1% of landfill.  
  • 90% of Canadians will recycle used, clean bags if given the opportunity.
  • Plastic shopping bag manufacture employs 10,000+ Ontarians and the recycling and remanufacturing of the bags is helping to create even more green jobs.  
  1.    [1]  Actualités - Journal de Montréal 29/01/2011 and 30/01/2011 . Pourquoi a-t-on voulu diminuer la quantité de sacs en plastique partout ...Le Québec a suivi la plupart des pays développés du monde en restreignant la libre circulation des sacs de plastique, au cours des cinq dernières années. Mais est-il allé trop vite ?)