The underlying truth to why Montreal’s plastic bag ban doesn’t actually ban plastic bags

Reporting to you live from Montreal, the first major Canadian city to ban traditional plastic bags, or so we thought….

Alright I’m not in Montreal, but I wish I was, however, I’m still going to share with you the inside scoop on what exactly is going on with Montreal’s plastic bag ban that went into effect exactly one month ago. The rings are coming off, the coffee is going in, I’m channeling my inner Rory Gilmore to type up this storm that will deliver some very important information to you about why you can really never put too much faith in governments to do anything of value for the environment without having some kind of hidden agenda… or really ever.

At the beginning of this absurdly long month, also known as January, I came across the most embarrassing piece of journalism I’ve ever seen, and from it, I was actually able to obtain one useful fact which was that Montreal officially put into place a by-law prohibiting the distribution of traditional plastic bags in retail stores. This was not the first I had heard of it, but I was definitely happy that it had finally happened for real. I looked into more reputable, mainstream media sources to see exactly what the ban entailed and from what I could gather, it seemed that all traditional, biodegradable, oxo-degradable, disposable plastic bags were included in the ban.

Finally, what seemed like 74 days later (it was only 3 weeks), I spoke to my cousin on the phone to ask her how the ban was affecting her and she had some very surprising news for me. She noted to me that while traditional plastic bags have definitely decreased in availability, the ones offered, are actually thicker.  Unfortunately I couldn’t offer her a clear reason for why this could be off the top of my head, but after doing some quick digging, I discovered the formally written by-law that states: “It is prohibited to offer clients in retail stores, against payment or free of charge, traditional plastic shopping bags less than 50 microns thick, as well as oxo-degradable, oxo-fragmentable or biodegradable plastic bags, regardless of their thickness.” The document also provides useful definitions for all those types of plastic bags so as to be as clear as possible of what it entails. From this, I seem to have found the answer to the alleged increase in plastic bag thickness that my cousin discussed.

From what I understand from that statement, and from reading the rest of the information in the document, as long as traditional plastic bags are made thicker than 50 microns, they are allowed to be distributed. Therefore, businesses can decide among paper, reusable and extra-thick  plastic bags, which is the most economical type to offer to their customers, and if it so happens to be extra thick plastic bags, then that is what will be offered. It now seems as though, a by-law that was put in place to reduce the amount of plastic going into landfills isn’t all it was made out to be and might actually lead to an increase in plastic going into landfills (and into the ocean might I add).

Since it is only the first month of the ban, there is still a lot that can happen, so I will aim to follow up on this story if anything new information comes my way.

Feel free to leave us any comments, questions or concerns about this issue, we really want to hear what you have to share!


  1. […] Some uplifting news in the global war-on-plastic this past month, is that the UK banned microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles used in many products including cosmetics, face scrub and toothpastes. This ban is extremely important because microplastics in the ocean are even more difficult to remove than larger pieces of plastic. It is estimated that there are currently 5 trillion pieces of plastic in ocean and that 8 million tons of plastic waste are added each year to the ocean. At this rate, it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in oceans which is absolutely absurd to me. In other news, in January, Montreal, my hometown, became the first major Canadian city to ban traditional plastic bags in retail stores, however, it has now surfaced that this ban isn’t exactly what everyone originally thought it was (read more here). […]


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