Frequently asked questions — Ban on plastic shopping bags


What is the purpose of this new by-law?

This by-law bans the distribution of certain types of shopping bags in retail stores in order to encourage people to change their habits when it comes to using these bags, thereby reducing their environmental impact.

Why is Longueuil banning certain types of shopping bags?

In December 2015, the council of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) adopted a resolution requiring local municipalities to express their intention to ban single-use plastic bags on their territories by April 22, 2018.

As a member of the CMM, Longueuil has joined this movement and wishes to contribute to the collective effort to protect the environment. As a result, Longueuil will encourage:

  • more environmentally friendly behaviours by reducing the use of single-use plastic bags;
  • the use of reusable shopping bags, which are still the most environmentally sound option whenever a bag is needed.

When will the by-law take effect?

By-law CO-2017-974 was adopted by the municipal council on March 20, 2018. It will take effect immediately upon its publication.

However, all retailers will be given a grace period until September 1, 2018, to comply with the by-law. During this period, the by-law will not be enforced.

Which types of bags are banned by the new by-law?

Single-use shopping bags, meaning the bags that customers are given at the cash in retail stores.

More specifically, the following types of bags are now banned:

  • conventional plastic bags less than 50 microns thick;
  • oxo-degradable or oxo-fragmentable plastic bags;
  • biodegradable bags;
  • compostable bags.

Why are compostable bags banned?

The main objective of the ban is to reduce the amount of waste produced at source. Since compostable bags are not very durable, they are considered single-use bags. Their only acceptable reuse is to line compost bins.

About compostable plastic bags, Recyc-Québec says they “are primarily intended for the collection of organic waste and have no significant advantage over conventional plastic bags when used as a shopping bag.”

Compostable plastic bags can also be confused with conventional plastic bags.

Why ban single-use plastic shopping bags?

When they are not recycled, lightweight plastic shopping bags become a problem for the environment. They can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. In addition to being an eyesore, stray plastic bags have major repercussions on the land and marine ecosystems. Pieces of plastic bags ingested by wildlife enter the marine food chain, which includes humans.

Between 1.4 and 2.7 billion shopping bags, mainly plastic, are distributed each year in Québec. Only 14% of these bags are recycled.

Banning the distribution of certain types of bags also encourages the source reduction of waste, which in turn promotes the use of less packaging. Using containers and reusable bags and banning single-use products are two easy ways to minimize waste.

Which types of bags are allowed by the new by-law?

  • Plastic bags containing advertising circulars, distributed door-to-door;
  • Plastic dry cleaning bags;
  • Plastic medication bags given out at pharmacy prescription counters;
  • Plastic bags used exclusively to hygienically carry bulk foods, (fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, etc.) to the cash in a retail store, or to prevent food items from directly touching other items.

Why are certain types of plastic shopping bags allowed?

They are allowed for reasons of hygiene and privacy. This includes the thin, clear produce bags used in grocery stores, and medication bags used in pharmacies.

Why are the Publisac bags allowed?

The by-law covers shopping bags only, meaning the bags that are given out in stores with purchases. The Publisac bags are not shopping bags; since they are not covered by the by-law, they were not studied.

Why are plastic dry cleaning bags allowed?

Plastic dry cleaning bags are not covered by the ban since they are not shopping bags.

Does the by-law apply to all businesses, or only grocery stores?

Yes, the by-law applies to all retail businesses with a storefront or located in a shopping centre on the territory: grocery stores, pharmacies (except for the prescription counter), clothing stores, shoe stores, cosmetics stores, etc.

Why are paper bags not banned? Because according to the Recyc-Québec lifecycle analysis, they are worse for human health and the environment, and in terms of fossil fuel use.

Very few stores give out paper bags, so they are not really an issue, unlike single-use plastic bags, which are available in most retail stores and which are still given out in large numbers each year, despite the voluntary code of best practices adopted by certain stores.

The problem addressed by the ban is therefore the high number of single-use plastic bags used by the population, which has a significant negative cumulative environmental impact.

What are the possible solutions for retailers who are forced to comply with the by law?

There are several different ways that retailers can comply with the by-law, including:

  1. Not giving customers a bag for products that are already packaged or in boxes;
  2. Encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags;
  3. Reusing boxes from deliveries and orders;
  4. Giving out or selling compliant reusable bags with purchases that require a bag.

Given the main objective of the by-law, which is to minimize waste, Longueuil is encouraging merchants to reduce the number of bags distributed and to stop systematically giving out bags with each purchase, even if they comply with the by-law.

Will the city support retailers in implementing the by-law?

All retail stores on the territory that distribute bags to their customers will receive support from Ville de Longueuil.

The following tool will be provided to retailers:

  • A kit that includes all the materials needed to inform their customers of the new by-law (in French only);
  • A web page containing full details about the project and which types of bags are allowed.

How will the city check if retail stores are complying with the new by-law?

Random inspections will be carried out at different types of stores each year or in response to a formal complaint filed with the city.

Does the by-law provide for sanctions for retailers who do not comply with the by law? If yes, how much are the fines?

Yes, the by-law provides for sanctions. However, Longueuil fully intends to give retailers enough time to adapt to the new by-law. Therefore, a grace period will be given until September 1, 2018, to comply with the by-law. During this period, the by-law will not be enforced.

Anyone who violates a provision of the by-law is committing an offence that is punishable by a fine, plus fees:

  1. A physical person (anyone who advises, urges, commands, incites to, aids in, omits, or directly or indirectly commits an offence):

    • for a first offence, a fine of $200-$1,000;
    • for a repeat offence, a fine of $400-$2,000.
  2. A moral person (as a general rule, the company directly or indirectly authorizing the offence):

    • for a first offence, a fine of $400-$2,000;
    • for a repeat offence, a fine of $800-$4,000.

Does the by-law mean I have to buy new reusable bags?

If you already have reusable bags, you can keep using them. If your bags are worn out or if you do not have any, you should buy reusable bags made from recycled materials.

How should I care for my reusable bags?

If the bags are washable, wash them periodically with detergent. You can also wipe them with disinfectant spray and a cloth.

How can I prevent cross-contamination?

Cross-contamination happens when cooked or ready-to-eat food comes into contact with a utensil, a work surface or hands that have touched raw food (source: MAPAQ). Placing products such as raw meat and fish in plastic bags will help to prevent cross contamination with other foods.

Reusable bags also need to be kept clean (see the answer to the previous question).

What are the results of the lifecycle analysis published by RECYC-QUÉBEC in January 2018?

While the study shows that reusable bags are the most environmentally friendly option, they need to be used at least 35 to 75 times (so, for about one year) in order for their effects on the environmental indicators of the lifecycle to be equivalent to or better than those of a conventional plastic bag.

To date, which municipalities in the CMM have expressed their intention to ban single-use plastic shopping bags?

As of January 2018, 37 municipalities or regional county municipalities (RCMs), representing 78% of the population of the greater Montréal area, had either adopted a by-law or resolutions supporting this ban. These municipalities or RCMs are:

1. Belœil 20. Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot
2. Brossard 21. Repentigny
3. Calixa-Lavallée 22. Richelieu
4. Candiac 23. Saint-Amable
5. Charlemagne 24. Saint-Basile-le-Grand
6. Châteauguay 25. Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville
7. Contrecœur 26. Saint-Constant
8. Delson 27. Saint-Isidore
9. Deux-Montagnes 28. Saint-Jean-Baptiste
10. La Prairie 29. Sainte-Julie
11. Laval 30. Saint-Lambert
12. Longueuil 31. Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil
13. Lorraine 32. Saint-Philippe
14. Mascouche 33. Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue
15. Mercier 34. Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac
16. Montréal 35. Sainte-Thérèse
17. Mont-Saint-Hilaire 36. Varennes
18. MRC de Beauharnois-Salaberry (partie de la CMM) 37. Verchères
19. MRC de Marguerite-D'Youville

Source: CMM, 2018