StopPlastics’ Asks/Demands

What exactly is StopPlastics asking of the City of Toronto and where and how does the federal government come into the discussion on single-use plastic?

Summary:  We think it is great that both the federal and municipal governments are working towards fixing the single use plastic problem but we need to move on more than just the items listed…we need to include, plastic beverage bottles, cigarette filters, those dental floss holders, plastic smoking tips(tar traps), produce bags.  We need to keep moving forward, not just become complacent with banning just the few items.


The proposed federal guidelines to deal with plastic pollution and waste are simply a jumping off point.  The guidelines chiefly  address plastic take-away food items, to the exclusion of the myriad of other types of single use plastics such as potato chip bags and candy wrappers, caps and lids, cigarette butts, cigarillo tips and marijuana and vaping paraphernalia, water and pop bottles, etc.   The 6 items they have addressed have been dealt with skillfully, in that the government has not only proposed to implement bans, but also plans to prohibit  the  manufacture, import and export of these 6 items . 

Here’s what the federal government has proposed:

C:\Users\Administrator\Documents\StopPlastics  plastic prohibitions\Federal prohibition chart.JPG

Figure 1  Government of Canada

These prohibitions are important; they are what StopPlastics has been advocating for, at least as part of a first step.    Further, the move to prohibit these items has been enhanced by the listing of plastic as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, although this is being challenged by some of the big players in the plastics industry who are suing the federal government.  The last time we checked (May 15th, 2023) the matter was still before the courts.  Unfortunately, these prohibitions are only a drop in the bucket as far as plastic pollution goes.  The Government reports that: “ By prohibiting 6 categories of single-use plastics, the Regulations are projected to reduce plastic pollution by 5% and plastic waste by 3% by 2030”.  Unfortunately the federal government proposes to deal with the other 97% of plastic waste through recycling.  Recycling has been touted as the solution to plastic pollution forever; this strategy has failed dismally.  

The City of Toronto

The City HAS OR HAD? a plan to deal with single use items.  The  list of single-use items that the City felt must be addressed largely mirrors those targeted by the federal government, however the City proposed  enhancing the federal ban by imposing fees on single use bags  (both paper and plastic) and on single-use cups (hot and cold).  They  also proposed an ask first/by request approach to deal with single-use accessory items such as straws, utensils, condiment packets, stir sticks, napkins, etc.  

But that was then.  Because of Covid the City felt it couldn’t burden businesses that felt they had to use single use disposable items.  The City then moved to a Voluntary Measures programme. 

“A Voluntary Measures Program (VMP) will be the first stage of the Reduction Strategy. The VMP will encourage businesses to voluntarily implement actions to reduce single-use and takeaway items. This includes: 

  • adoption of an “ask first/by request” approach for items such as bags, straws, eating utensils and more;
  • asking businesses to consider accepting reusable takeout containers and beverage cups; and
  • incentives and recognition from the City of Toronto for businesses that adopt voluntary measures to reduce single-use and takeaway items. “

 It seems the City’s plans have stalled here.  Will they be enacting the measures proposed in the chart below or won’t they?  Here’s an update from Waste Strategy staff from Wed, May 24 at 2:20 p.m.


The City is committed to helping residents and businesses reduce the use of single-use and takeaway items. Reducing single-use and takeaway items supports recommendations established in the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy (Waste Strategy), which was adopted by City Council in July 2016 and places priority on reducing waste and minimizing the amount sent to landfill. As you are aware, the City has been working on a Reduction Strategy to reduce the use of single-use and takeaway items in Toronto. Stage 1 of the Strategy, which was approved by City Council in June of 2021, aims to both encourage and enable businesses in Toronto to voluntarily reduce the unnecessary use of single-use and takeaway items in their day-to-day operations.   

To inform the approach of the Reduction Strategy – Stage 2, staff continue to monitor other jurisdictions’ proposed and existing single-use and takeaway items reduction policies and regulations along with the implementation of the federal government’s Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations and any new components of the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste. Later this year, Solid Waste Management Services staff will report back to City Council with recommendations for mandatory measures (e.g., fees), on additional items to be addressed through the Strategy and timing of implementation.

Marie-Helen Brillinger

Project lead, Solid Waste Policy and Planning

Solid Waste Management Services

City of Toronto

O: 416-397-0622

C: 416-578-8924

C:\Users\Administrator\Documents\StopPlastics  plastic prohibitions\Municipal & Federal prohibition chart.JPG

Figure 2 City of Toronto.

While StopPlastics appreciates the attention to plastic pollution that has been paid by all levels of government, the omnipresence of plastic necessitates legislation that all non-essential plastic be prohibited.  The federal government should employ the precautionary principle and place the burden of proof on manufacturers by obligating them to prove that their goods require the use of plastic. 

The City should also employ stronger measures to limit the use of plastic with the goal of eventually prohibiting all non-essential plastic starting with the single use items flagged in the study commissioned by  City staff by the consultant Strategy Matters its report “Technical Memorandum No.1 – Single-use and Takeaway Reduction Strategies”.  Although it may seem redundant, the City should ban the following items as federal prohibitions may be imperiled by court challenges or by changes in government and because the the scope of these prohibitions is insufficient:

  • Plastic bags (all weights and types).  The federal ban only addresses carrying bags—it doesn’t cover produce bags for example
  • Cold cups and lids (missing from the federal ban; aluminum can can be recycled an infinite no. of times)
  • Plastic bottles and caps (missing from the federal ban)
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Single-use EPS, which includes cups, clamshells and plates
  • Plastic food containers
  • Hot cups (take-out coffee cups not only have plastic liners but estimates suggest that Canadians use between 1.6 and 2 billion disposable coffee cups a year. These represent up to 35,000 tonnes of paper, made from more than 70,000 tonnes of raw wood, harvested from thousands of hectares of forest. ” Canadian Geographic. 
  • Black plastic
  • Condiment packets

In addition the City should prohibit the items below.  Not only have StopPlastics’ volunteers found these by the hundreds in clean-ups but they are also on the watch list of the Strategy Matters study.

  • Cigarette filters Cigarette packaging
  • Wet wipes
  • Cotton bud sticks
  • Balloon sticks
  • Balloons


  • Cigarillo tips, vaping devices and marijuana paraphernalia—although not on the Strategy Matters’ list a new, huge concern.

A timely reminder to act now was implicit in a recent report by the Province of Ontario’s Auditor General that noted:  “In central Lake Ontario, microplastic levels in sediments were measured to be approximately 4.7 billion particles per square kilometre, a concentration more than twenty thousand times greater than the average abundance of microplastics per square kilometre in the surface waters.”

GOffice of the Auditor General of Ontario.  The State of the Environment in Ontario.  May 2023.

In conclusion:  Banning single-use plastic is step #1, a starting point.  Step #2.  We must set our sights on banning “disposable” plastic next.   Step #3.  We must tackle non-essential plastics.  

Bold action required!