The city of Toronto is considering tough action to address a waste produced by overly packaged consumer products.
The Toronto Globe and Mail reported the city is considering all options including an outright ban on materials used in food takeout to a tax on retail plastic bags to a city-run deposit-return program.
"I expect there may be some voluntary measures, and there may be some that have other strategies," said Mayor David Miller, after he spoke to the forum that drew heavy attendance from uneasy retailers and the packaging industry.
Any move to ban certain types of packaging or impose new taxes or fees would put Toronto at the forefront of Canadian municipalities, but the mayor emphasized "no decisions have been made."
He praised individual efforts by some retailers, but warned time is running out for action on waste reduction.
"A lot of it can be voluntary, but on the other hand, why has it not happened yet?" he asked. "If industry is capable of doing it voluntarily, they have not chosen to today."
Kim McKinnon, Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, told the session her members support voluntary action on packaging.
As proof of what is possible, she cited a 2007 plan by her association and other retailers to cut plastic-bag use by 50 per cent by 2010, with a 9-per-cent drop in consumption so far.
Joseph Hruska, a municipal relations official with the Environmental and Plastics Industry Council, whose members make packaging, questioned the need for imposed measures.
"We have a blue box [recycling] or we have these return to retail programs," he said, citing options for consumers to leave packaging at stores. "Why regulate when you already have the tools to divert?"
As they reported the answer lies in Toronto's strategy to divert 70 per cent of waste from landfill by 2010, up from 42 percent today.
Beyond recycling, with polystyrene and plastic film to be added to the blue box later this year, and extension of "green bin" organic waste pickup from multi-residential units starting this November, the city wants a 10,000-tonne reduction in packaging use. A drop in outright consumption would extend the life of the city-owned Green Lane landfill by 10 years to 2034, say Toronto officials.