Montreal launches public consultation on plastic bag ban

WATCH: If Montreal’s mayor has his way, plastic bags could soon be banned in the city. The city’s executive committee is launching a public consultation on the issue this month. Ines De La Cuetara reports.

MONTREAL — “Do you need a bag?”

It’s a question that Montrealers are asked over and over again at the register, but it’s one they may soon stop hearing.

The city of Montreal has begun a public consultation on banning the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and depanneurs.

“It is a very good initiative, it should have been done a long time ago,” said Karel Ménard, from the Front commun québécois pour une gestion écologique des déchets.

The city is citing environmental concerns, as plastic bags take over 400 years to decompose in landfills.

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Until now, grocery stores have been charging a fee; 5 cents a bag for those who forgot their re-usable bags at home.

The measure has been considered effective, cutting Quebecers’ annual use of plastic bags by half, from over two billion bags a year, to one billion.

Other places, like Quebec’s provincial liquor board, the SAQ, have already completely done away with single-use bags.

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“I really try not to use plastic bags, I use this bag and I put everything in this bag,” said one man as he left the Provigo on Mount Royal.

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“I think it’s a good idea, less pollution,” said one woman.

Still, some Montrealers remained a little sceptical.

“I’m mixed on the use because what’s going to happen? What will people substitute if you don’t have the bags? Are they going to have more bags, or thicker bags?” asked one man.

READ MORECalifornia becomes first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags

“I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘unrealistic,’ but it’s extremely audacious,” said Justine McIntyre, a city councillor.

McIntyre said people have become so accustomed to plastic bags, that getting rid of them altogether might not be so simple.

“I think there would be a way to go towards that without necessarily from one day to the next stopping it and making it illegal,” she said.

Ménard said she agrees: “We should be aiming for a phasing out.”

It’s unclear what would happen to the plastic bag industry if the measure is implemented.

In Toronto, a city council vote to ban all single-use plastic bags in 2013 was eventually rejected because of legal threats from the plastics industry.

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Montreal would be the first major city in Canada to ban the bags.

“The city of Montreal should show an example on plastic bags to other big cities in the world,” said Ménard.

The city’s public consultation will examine both environmental and economic impacts, with additional consultations to be held in June.

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