Montreal merchants who disregard the city’s plastic bag ban could now face fines of up to $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a corporation for a first offence.
Montreal implemented its long-planned ban on plastic bags at the beginning of the year, making it the first major Canadian city to do so.
The ban covers the distribution of lightweight plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns, as well as biodegradable bags, which contain an additive that causes them to decompose in heat and light.
There is an exception for thin bags used in grocery stores to transport fruit and vegetables to the cash register, or to wrap up meat.
READ MORE: Montreal’s plastic bag ban to kick off 2018
City officials say lost or abandoned plastic bags are a visual nuisance that cause considerable harm to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and often end up in landfills.
“We use roughly 2 billion of these bags annually and only 14 per cent are reintegrated in recycling plants,” said Jean-François Parenteau, the city council member responsible for the environment.
City officials say the ban is to encourage people to move away from single-use products and to adopt reuseable bags.
Thicker plastic bags, paper bags and cardboard boxes will also be allowed.
WATCH BELOW: A ban on (plastic) bags
Victoria has also announced its intention to ban plastic bags beginning in July 2018, while Vancouver is mulling the issue.
Several smaller Canadian municipalities have also imposed their own bans, while Toronto tried and failed to do so in 2012.
READ MORE: Montreal moves to ban plastic bags by 2018
Retail and plastic industry advocates have opposed the bans, arguing they are unnecessary as well as troublesome for businesses and consumers.
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association‘s website argues that most shopping bags are reused and recycled, and that other measures to reduce the number of plastic bags have already been successful.
— with files from The Canadian Press.