Happy New Year! Time to dig back into things with our first blog of 2023, where we answer all your questions about the single-use plastic ban in effect across Canada -- in addition to the separate and much more restrictive Montreal single-use plastic ban.
What is happening with the Single-Use Plastics ban in Canada?
Now that 2023 has arrived, it brings with it the first phase of the Canadian Federal Single-Use Plastics ban, which restricts the import and manufacture of a few different single-use plastic products for sale and distribution in Canada, effective immediately.
The main targets of the ban for 2023 include some of the most ubiquitous single-use items being used in retail and food service, notably: plastic straws, cutlery, stir sticks, and shopping bags. Starting this year, it will be impossible to import or manufacture these items unless they meet certain criteria that exclude them from the category of 'single-use'.
Some municipalities are introducing their own additional bans. The City of Montreal, for example, will have a far more restrictive ban in effect as of March 28, 2023. For more information on the Montreal ban, please click here.
What Qualifies an Item as Single-Use in Canada?
The Canadian government will continue to allow the importation and manufacture of plastic and compostable plastic utensils, if they can be put in the dishwasher and used 100 times before they have to be thrown away. If not, they are classified as "single use".
Similarly, a shopping bag that cannot be used at least 100 times to carry up to 10 kg over 53 meters is considered "single use".
Other than these examples, all other items on the federal ban list are considered "single use" by default.
How do I Know if My Single Use Plastic Items are Being Banned in Canada?
Since the ban is focused on sale and distribution, your current supplier should provide you with clear information about which products are being banned, and which alternatives you can choose. You can also find all the answers by exploring the info provided in this blog and elsewhere on our website, and we will gladly help clarify things for you if you contact us.
Are Compostable Plastic Items Banned in Canada?
Compostable plastic items are not banned in Canada. Most plastic products that are being banned can be replaced with compostable plastic versions, in addition to compostable versions that are made from fibre, paper, bamboo, etc.
The Canadian government will continue to allow the import, manufacture, and sale of compostable plastic (PLA) cutlery in 2023, as long as it can be put through a normal dishwasher and still be used 100 times before needing to be thrown out. If you're looking for compostable plastic cutlery that meets this criteria and is therefore not affected by the federal ban, click here.
How is the Montreal Single-Use Plastics ban different from the Federal Ban?
The City of Montreal has its own single-use plastic ban, starting March 28th of 2023. This ban includes a wider range of single-use plastic and compostable plastic products, going far beyond what is included in the Canadian federal government's ban.
For more information on the Montreal ban, click here.
What Single-Use Plastic Items are Banned across Canada?
The federal single-use plastic ban targets these main items:
— Shopping bags;
— Straight Straws;
— Stir sticks;
Also targeted is a category of single-use plastic and styrofoam containers that are grouped together and referred to as:
— 'Foodservice ware'.
For more information on this category, please click here.
What Single-Use Plastic 'Foodservice Ware' Items are Banned across Canada?
The single-use items being banned in the category of 'Foodservice ware' include a broad range of plastic and styrofoam items usually used for take-out containers, such as:
— Clamshell (hinged) containers;
— Lidded containers;
— Plates and bowls.
In addition to clear plastic versions, the federal ban includes any versions of these items that are made from polystyrene (styrofoam), PVC, or any black plastic. So-called 'oxo-degradable' foodservice ware items are also banned -- however, compostable plastic (PLA) versions of all these items are allowed.
Here are some compostable options to replace the plastic items being banned.
Are Flexible Plastic Straws Allowed in Canada?
In order to ensure accessibility for those who need a straw in order to drink effectively, flexible plastic straws are not banned (including compostable versions) and can be distributed in the following situations:
— Packs of 20 or more flexible straws can be sold to customers;— Businesses can sell quantities over 20 to other businesses;
— Individuals in family settings may give flexible straws to others;
— Care institutions (hospitals and retirement homes, for example) may provide flexible straws to patients or residents.
Flexible straws are still subject to a number of restrictions:
— Straws cannot be openly displayed where a customer can look at or touch the packaging without aid from an employee;
— In all cases, the recipient must ask for them before they can be provided.
You can find all the information you need in our blogs and our FAQ. You can also always contact us, we'll be glad to help.
What Exceptions are there to the Federal Single-Use Plastic Ban?
Some notable exceptions and definitions in the federal single-use plastic ban include:
— Flexible plastic straws - (sold in packs of at least 20, only upon customer request);
— Reusable plastic checkout bags - (defined as usable at least 100 times when carrying up to 10kg over 53 metres);
— Reusable plastic cutlery - (defined as able to be washed at least 100 times in a normal dishwasher without noticeable change).
For more information for the definition of a single-use product, please click here.
Can I still Use Single-Use Plastics in Canada?
Sales of existing stock of any item on the federal ban list are allowed until December 20th of 2023. There are very few exceptions to anything appearing on this list, although in most cases you can use compostable versions of the banned items.
In Montreal, many restaurants and food service businesses will not be allowed to distribute items on the far more extensive City of Montreal ban list as of March 28, 2023.
Are Single-Use Plastic Shopping Bags Banned in Canada?
Single-use plastic shopping bags are included on the Canada-wide federal ban, though sale and distribution of existing stock is still allowed until December 20th of 2023. Click here for more information on other items banned in Canada.
As of March 28, 2023, single-use plastic shoping bags are banned for sale or distribution in the City of Montreal. Click here for more information on other items banned in Montreal.
What is happening with the Single-Use Plastics ban in Montreal?
As of March 28, 2023, most restaurants and food service businesses operating in Montreal will be subject to a more extensive single-use plastic ban that targets many more items than those covered by the federal ban. For a full list of the items being banned, click here.
It is crucial to note that only food service businesses that sell directly to consumers on-site will be subject to the Montreal ban. This means primarily that:
— Businesses that produce, prepare, or package food off-site for distribution to customers by other businesses will not be affected by the ban;
— Businesses that distribute to customers food that has been prepared and packaged off-site will not also not be affected by the ban.
Here is a list of the types of businesses that may have exemptions from the ban due to indirect distribution to consumers or sales of food prepared off-site.
Who is Exempt from the Montreal Single-Use Plastic Ban?
Food production, preparation, and packaging businesses that do not sell directly to consumers on-site are exempt from the Montreal single-use plastic ban. Examples of businesses that may have exemptions include:
— Microgreens producers;
— Food packaging for grocery stores;
— Catering services;
— Prepared meal suppliers;
— Grocery stores;
— Restaurants that offer delivery only;
— Non-profit organizations that distribute food as part of their mission.
Remember, if you're not a food service business that sells directly to consumers on-site, you don't need to worry about the Montreal ban, though you will need to respect the restrictions of the Federal ban. It is also important to note that plastic shopping bags are banned for use by all types of businesses in Montreal, with no exceptions.
You can find all the information you need in our blogs and our FAQ. You can also always contact us, we'll be glad to help.
What Single-Use Plastic Items are Banned in Montreal?
As of March 28, 2023, a number of additional single-use plastic items -- beyond those specified in the federal ban -- are banned for use by restaurants and other food establishments in Montreal, if they sell directly to consumers on-site. This applies even if the packaging for the food being served is for delivery or takeout.
The additional plastic items being banned in Montreal include:
— Single-use shopping bags;
— Cups and lids;
— Stir sticks and utensils;
— Plates and bowls;
— Containers and lids;
— Trays (except for meat and fish).
If you do not sell directly to consumers on-site, then the ban does not apply to you, though you will need to respect the restrictions of the Federal ban. There are also a few other exceptions for these items. For more info on these exceptions, click here.It is also important to note that plastic shopping bags are banned for use by all types of businesses in Montreal, with no exceptions. To see some alternatives to the items being banned in Montreal, click here.
What Exceptions are there for the Montreal Single-Use Plastic Items Ban?
Remember, if you do not sell directly to consumers on-site, then the Montreal single-use plastic ban does not apply to you. Beyond this, certain plastic products specified by the ban have other exceptions: ?
— Produce bags used in-store for fruits, vegetables, etc. are allowed;
— Plastic bags used as protection for leaking meat trays are allowed;
— Plastic cutlery may be provided for takeout or delivery, if requested.
It is important to note that compostable plastic (PLA) cutlery is not allowed at all by the Montreal ban, although it is allowed by the federal ban. You can instead offer compostable wooden or fibre cutlery as an alternative.
Are Compostable Plastic Items Banned in Montreal?
Compostable plastic (PLA) products are not banned in Montreal, although they are not allowed as replacements for any item that appears on the Montreal single-use plastic ban. To understand why Montreal is applying a different set of rules for compostable products than the rest of Canada, click here.
Food production, preparation, and packaging businesses that do not sell directly to consumers on-site are exempt from the Montreal single-use plastic ban, and can use any compostable plastic products they wish.
Here is a list of the types of businesses that may have exemptions from the ban and can use compostable plastic products.
Why are some Compostable Plastic Items not Allowed in Montreal?
There are still some issues to be resolved with compostable plastic (PLA) products, such as how to avoid further complication to the attempt to effectively recycle regular plastics. We will certainly hear more about this over the coming years, as industry and government continue to work toward solutions.
In addition to this concern, the food-waste treatment facilities that have been built over the past decade for the City of Montreal were not designed to accept compostable plastic products. This has created a 'where facilities exist' kind of problem for the city, which has now become a driving force for the restrictions imposed on compostable plastic (PLA) products in Montreal.
Are the Federal and Montreal Single-Use Plastic Bans Good or Bad?
Our opinion at Compostable.ca is that the single-use plastic bans for Canada and for the City of Montreal are absolutely necessary in order to start addressing the problems of plastic pollution.
These bans are in their early stages, and will require some refinement over time in order to get everything right, but it is a good start. That being said, we do have some concern that the specifics of these bans will contribute to the current confusion about compostable plastic (PLA).
For more information, please see our blog posts about compostable plastics and city collection.