Toronto's five cent mandatory plastic bag fee has in some regards been a success. From the time it was introduced in 2008, Torontonians' consumption of disposable plastic bags has been reduced by 53 per cent.
But the fee that Toronto Council mandated under former Mayor David Miller has been a bust when it comes to revenue for the city. None of the estimated $5.4 million collected annually by Toronto retailers for plastic bags finds its way to city coffers.
On Monday, May 14, Toronto's executive committee will consider a proposal from Scarborough Southwest Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, to try and recoup some of that cash for the purposes of restoring the city's tree canopy - by simply asking retailers to donate it back.
"The city instituted this bylaw, and we put it in place for a great reason, there has been a great outcome - there is a reduction in bags - however we're not seeing the benefits in that," said Berardinetti.
"This is a great opportunity for corporations to come into partnership with the city. It's great for everybody because it's great branding."
Berardinetti will be bringing the matter to executive committee Monday with a report from City Manager Joe Pennachetti, recommending that the city promote a charitable donation that retailers might make with the proceeds from the bag fee - to a fund that would help the city deal with the $75 million it will cost to repair and replace trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer beetle.
The charity would put city muscle behind the arrangement that Miller and large retailers came to, as the city was grappling with how to reduce plastic bags in 2008.
Council was initially considering requiring a 10 cent bag fee, which would be collected by retailers and returned in part to the city. The fee would at once provide a disincentive for customers to use and dispose of plastic bags, and raise revenue for the city.
The compromise finally saw retailers simply being required to collect the fee, but turn no money over to the city. Many major retailers pledged to donate the money made from selling the plastic bags to green charities, but there is no requirement that they do so.