Montreal’s new bylaw banning single-use plastic bags went into effect on New Year’s Day, although it won’t be enforced immediately. There is a grace period during which city officials will work with store managers to determine the best approach.
This is a good decision because buy-in by the public is important to the bylaw’s success. Initiating fines before the majority of shoppers are aware would cause resentment.
The bylaw bans plastic bags that are thinner than 0.05 millimeters. This is important because bags that thin are so light they can be spread by even light wind. Worse still, they often end up in lakes, rivers and oceans where they jeopardize fish and other water wildlife.
A supermarket in Iceland has gone a step further. It has become the world’s first store to remove plastic packaging from all its own label products. This will put pressure on its competitors to do the same thing.
With an estimated 300 million plastic bags in the Atlantic Ocean and the total continuing to grow, the ocean is becoming more dangerous for sea life. Mammals often mistake a plastic bag as food, which can cut off their airway. They die from toxin or blockage of their intestine.
Plastic bags on land take hundreds of years to break down, so when that is combined their their rapid growth the impact is enormous. Plastic bags can be cheaply replaced with bags that can be re-used many times and are more efficient.