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Proposed Toronto bylaw to cut single-use plastics by forcing customers to ask businesses for them

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Ordering takeout in Toronto won’t automatically mean you get cutlery, a cup, and a bag to carry your food in if a new bylaw aimed at reducing single-use plastics in the city is approved.

The Single-Use and Takeaway Items, or SUTI, Bylaw is before Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Wednesday and lays out what the future of ordering food “to-go” in the city may look like.

In a proposed implementation schedule, Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services Division (Solid Waste) recommends that starting March 1, 2024, businesses would need to ask customers if they’d like a single-use “accessory food item” with their meal or cup for their beverage.

Customers can still request those items, but the single-use plastics synonymous with takeout will no longer be provided automatically, if the bylaw is approved.

Under the proposed guidelines, businesses can also start charging customers a “minimum amount” for a reusable bag – a $1 minimum charge in May 1, 2024 and $2 minimum charge a year later.

Paper bags will still be available, but only if customers ask for them. Businesses will also be required to accept reusable cups provided by customers.

The city estimates it will cost $450,000 to run and enforce the program ($250,000 in 2024 and $100,000 each in 2025 and 2026). Any further spending would need to be considered as part of the 2025 budget.

A grant, dubbed the Circular Food Innovators Fund (CFIF), will support small businesses in the delivery of this bylaw and others aimed at “achieving a more circular food system for Toronto residents and businesses,” the city told CTV News Toronto in an email.

A recommended implementation timeline of Toronto's proposed Single-Use and Takeaway Items Bylaw is seen here. (City of Toronto)

If the bylaw passes, the report by Solid Waste would be brought to council in 2025 on a possible expansion of the program to large event venues in Toronto as well as an acceptance by businesses of reusable food containers provided by customers themselves.

The proposal will be voted on at city council’s next meeting on Dec. 13.

Earlier this month, Canada’s Federal Court quashed a cabinet order that listed plastic manufactured items as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The court said in its decision that it was not reasonable to say all plastic manufactured items are harmful because the category is too broad. The decision has implications for Ottawa’s ban of six single-use plastic items, including straws, grocery bags and takeout containers, which started last year. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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