surcharge not in the bag
Getting rid of Toronto’s plastic bag surcharge may not be as straightforward as one vote at city council.
Mayor Rob Ford told the National Post this week he wants to quash the “bag tax,” which isn’t technically a tax because all the proceeds go to retailers, not the government.
But since the current bylaw requires stores to charge a nickel (often six cents, if the HST is added in) for every plastic bag, simply revoking it doesn’t mean that retailers have to stop, according to Rino Cipolletta, a manager of parks and waste enforcement in the city’s municipal licensing and standards division.
“If [council] cancels it and says it’s up to the store owners,” Mr. Cipolletta said, “they can continue with the plastic bag 5 if they want to.”
And some very well may, given that major retailers like Loblaws are charging for bags across the country.
Allen Langdon, vice president, environment, for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, would not comment on the future of the bag tax until there are more details. He said the latest survey of the council’s members showed a 71% drop in the number of plastic bags distributed since the charge came into effect.
“Success would be if they didn’t have to collect one single nickel. This is about reducing plastic bags, it’s not about collecting nickels,” Mr. Langdon said. Langdon said there are lots of examples of businesses donating the proceeds to the environment. It’s not known how much of the money raised goes to charity.
“There is definitely a profit that is being made on this,” said John Kiru, executive director of the Toronto Association of Business Impro ray bans vement Areas, which represents small businesses. He said hopefully the charge has instilled “some good habits,” but his organization supports killing it.
“Quite frankly, anything added to the consumer’s bottom line of cost is only reducing their spending ability. A nickel is a nickel, but you add all that up,” he said.
Mr. Cipolletta, who has been enforcing the bylaw on a complaint basis, said the city has “educated” 65 businesses with information packages and verbal warnings, and issued three notices of violations since it came into effect in 2009. No one has been charged.
“The number of bags that people are using has gone down significantly,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee. “It’s going to be a very robust and lively debate.”
National Post, with files from Peter Kuitenbrouwer
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