Fort Frances is now the first municipality in Ontario living with a ban on single-use plastics in 2021. The bylaw came into effect on New Year’s Day.
Under this new bylaw, businesses are prohibited from providing single-use plastics. However, in order to give businesses time to set new protocols that adhere to the new guidelines, fines for non-compliance will not be issued until 2022.
Patrick Briere, bylaw enforcement officer, said in an email that the delay of fines for non-compliance was designed to give businesses ample time to use up existing stocks and also the time needed to research alternatives to plastic. It will also allow the municipality to prepare and have approval from the province on the fines for this bylaw, he added.
Under the proposed fine structure, corporations or licensed businesses found guilty of violating the new guidelines would face a fines starting at $100 and not more than $10,000. On the other hand, individuals found guilty will face a fine of not less than $50 and not more than $500.
Miranda Allen, second assistant to the manager at Safeway, said they stopped the purchase of single-use plastic bags for checkout. However, they expect their current inventory of 50 cases of plastic bags to last until May. After that, Safeway will only provide paper bags, which customers can purchase for 10 cents if they do not have reusable bags.
“We do ask people if they have their own reusable bags as they are checking out,” Allen said. “I have seen more people coming in with their own bags.”
According to the Town of Fort Frances council, single-use plastics are a public nuisance and detrimental to the environment.
It is estimated that a town of 2,500 households could send a million plastic bags to landfills each year. Fort Frances has about 4,000 households, meaning annual single-use plastic bags sent to waste from the town is estimated to be 1.6 million.
Briere said as a result of this bylaw, less plastic bags are expected to enter the landfill site. When these plastics are replaced with readily recyclable or biodegradable materials as an alternate, they will break down much faster in landfills helping reduce the environmental impacts over the long term.
Exemptions to this bylaw includes packaging loose bulk items, flower wrap, transporting live fish, packaging medical supplies, collecting pet waste, packaging loose hardware items and protecting clothing or other linens after professional laundering or dry-cleaning.
The new bylaw does not prohibit businesses from providing single use plastic straws upon request. However, they should not be readily available by default or made accessible. Customers wishing to use plastic straws are not obliged to give reasons for needing one.
Briere said the town is looking to encourage businesses and residents to change the way they think and adapt to a more environmentally friendly way of doing things.