Toronto City Council recently directed city staff to start working on a single-use plastic ban for Toronto. The action, is in part, due to the pressure of environmental activist organizations and community groups that pressured their local councillors.

The existing single-use plastic bylaw for Toronto requires businesses to ask customers if they want single-use food accessory items with their order. It does not ban single-use plastics outright.

The Canadian federal ban on six types of single-use plastics, including cutlery, checkout bags, and straws, came into effect in 2022 as part of an effort to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030. However, a November 2023 ruling by the Federal Court in Responsible Plastic Use Coalition v. Canada (Environment and Climate Change) struck down the Canadian federal government’s decision to add “plastic manufactured items” to the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”) for being unreasonable and unconstitutional. The federal government appealed the Decision and asked the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) to stay the judgment of the lower court pending the outcome of the appeal. The FCA granted the stay in a decision on January 25, 2024, meaning that the regulation of single-use plastics under CEPA remains in effect.

A Toronto ban on single use plastics would not be impacted what happens at the federal level.

The Councillor responsible for spearheading the effort to ban single use plastics in Toronto is Diane Saxe, the former Environmental Commission of Ontario. Ms. Saxe’s motion at the Infrastructure & Environment Committee was passed at Council.

Reducing single-use and takeaway items supports recommendations established in the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy, which was adopted by City Council in July 2016.

City staff are currently working on the steps needed to pass a by-law, including stakeholder consultation, and they’ll bring this back to Council by the end of 2024 for a vote.