Fort Frances councillor welcomes single-use plastics bylaw
Media Release |
On January 1, 2021, the Town of Fort Frances will become one of the first municipalities in Canada - and the first in Ontario - to take action to reduce the amount of single-use plastics destined for landfill and litter. On New Year's Day, Bylaw No. 11/20 comes into effect in the municipality, marking a milestone in local efforts to promote sustainability.
The new bylaw was introduced in 2019 by Councillor Douglas W. Judson and adopted with the unanimous support of Fort Frances town council in January 2020. The bylaw restricts businesses from distributing single-use plastic checkout bags, foam-based 'take out' food containers, and single-use plastic drinking straws. There is no ban on the sale of these products.
The purpose of the bylaw is to encourage consumers and businesses to adopt more sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices, such as shopping with reusable bags or shifting to alternative single-use products, such as paper bags or straws. A number of exceptions are set out in the bylaw, such as packaging loose bulk items such as produce, wrapping flowers, and transporting live fish.
Town of Fort Frances staff have launched a communications campaign to ensure that consumers and businesses in the municipality are prepared for the new regulations.
While the bylaw will take effect on January 1, 2021, the financial penalties for infringing the bylaw will not come into force until January 1, 2022. As such, consumers and businesses will have had almost two years to exhaust current single-use plastics inventory and adapt to new practices. It is expected that the deferral of enforcement will also provide necessary flexibility as consumer and businesses adopt and adhere to special rules required as a result of the pandemic.
Further Information and Background:
It is estimated that every year, 1 to 5 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded around the world, with 10,000 tonnes of plastic debris entering the Great Lakes annually. The Great Pacific Garbage patch is three times the size of Northwestern Ontario. A town of 2,500 households could send a million plastic bags to landfills every year, and a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Single-use plastics and related products contribute to the global crisis of climate change by causing habitat destruction, ecosystem disruption, fossil fuel emissions, pollution, environmental contamination, and harms to the food supply. By 2050, one report estimates that plastic will be responsible for 13% of our global carbon diet.
The Municipal Act, 2001 empowers Ontario's municipalities to pass bylaws respecting the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the municipality, including in respect of climate change and waste management. It also allows the municipality to prohibit or regulate businesses operating in the municipality and to pass bylaws concerning matters that are or could become or cause a 'public nuisance', such as litter.
In April 2011, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association adopted a resolution calling on the Government of Ontario to enact legislation imposing a ban on the distribution of single-use fossil-fuel based plastic bags. The Town of Fort Frances' bylaw is modelled after provincial legislation in Nova Scotia and a municipal bylaw in Thompson, Manitoba. It contains a provision allowing for it to be reconsidered in the event that the provincial or federal government adopts legislation or regulations of substantially similar effect.
In June 2019, the federal government announced its intention to ban single-use plastics in 2021, though it is apparent that the pandemic response has taken priority and a potential election may alter this timeline. In Ontario, an NDP bill before the Legislature passed First Reading in March 2019 but has made no further progress.
McMillan LLP has published a helpful summary of the status of single-use plastics laws in various Canadian jurisdictions. It is available here.
"As a resource-based economy, Fort Frances has always been a community that values sustainability. I am very proud that my council colleagues have supported this initiative and that our community is showing leadership on such an important environmental issue. This effort shows that local governments don't need to wait to take action on global problems like climate change and the hazards of single-use plastic waste. We can show leadership today."
- Douglas W. Judson, Councillor, Town of Fort Frances
Douglas W. Judson
Questions about bylaw enforcement should be directed to bylaw office at the Town of Fort Frances Civic Centre.