Register for a webinar on February 22 to learn more about the Single-Use and Takeaway Items bylaw that takes effect on March 1, 2024.

In June 2021, Toronto City Council approved the voluntary Reducing Single-Use program as Stage 1 of the Reduction Strategy to help reduce single-use and takeaway items in Toronto. This program is designed to encourage and enable businesses to take small actions to eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use and takeaway items in their operations and to celebrate those who are already doing so.

The City is now moving forward into Stage 2 of the Reduction Strategy. A staff report was approved by Toronto City Council on December 15, including the adoption of the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Bylaw. The Bylaw will be available soon on the City’s Municipal Code webpage.

The City has developed resources to help businesses eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use and takeaway items and wants to recognize businesses that are already taking a leadership role in eliminating these items.

There are some easy ways to reduce your use of single-use and takeaway items. Download and display these posters in your home or workplace as a reference to the information provided below.

Let’s choose to reduce single-use items 

Reduce single-use items in your business

Single-use accessory items (such as eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays)

  • Say “no thanks” to single-use items when they are offered
  • Only accept single-use items if you need them
  • When ordering via apps or online, specify items that you don’t need
  • Carry a fork, spoon, cloth napkin and reusable straw in your bag or purse

Single-use cups and containers, foam (expanded polystyrene) cups and containers, black plastic containers, and plastic or plastic-lined items labelled as compostable or biodegradable

  • Bring your own reusable containers and travel mugs
  • Bring containers when dining out in case you have leftovers
  • Ask restaurants if they have reusable containers that you can borrow or rent
  • Ask for a reusable cup or dish when dining in

Shopping bags (paper and plastic)

  • Bring your own reusable bags or tote boxes

Why it is important to reduce single-use and take-away items.

  • Single-use accessory items (such as eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays) are generally not recyclable or compostable, and are common litter items.
  • Single-use and takeaway items require valuable resources and energy to produce, collect, process and dispose of.
  • Foam containers can have serious impacts on the environment because they break down into little pieces that are easily ingested by fish and animals.
  • Foam containers are difficult and costly to recycle.
  • Black plastic cannot be sorted mechanically at the City’s recycling facility, so is not accepted in the Blue Bin Recycling Program and is sent to landfill.
  • Take-out containers that are soiled with food and other residue can contaminate otherwise clean recyclables, resulting in entire loads being sent to landfill.
  • Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable, as well as plastic lined products, such as hot beverage cups, that are put in the Green Bin are screened out and end up in landfill. The Green Bin program was designed primarily to handle food waste as well as some fibre/paper products (like tissue and paper towel). It was not designed to process single-use items, products or packaging – even those labelled compostable or biodegradable. Learn more about what should go into your Green Bin (organics).
  • Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable are not recyclable, as they are made of materials that are meant to break down quickly as opposed to conventional plastics, which have a much longer lifespan and can be recycled into a new product. Once recyclables are collected and sorted, they are baled and sold to partially offset the operational costs. Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable will lower the quality of the plastic bales making them less valuable and more difficult to sell. Learn more about what should go into your Blue Bin (recycling).

The Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy – Stage 1 staff report  was approved by Toronto City Council in June 2021.

A Voluntary Measures Program (Program) is the first stage of the Reduction Strategy. The Program encourages businesses to voluntarily implement actions to reduce single-use and takeaway items. This includes:

  • adoption of an “ask-first/by-request” approach for items such as bags, straws and eating utensils
  • businesses accepting reusable takeout containers and beverage cups
  • incentives and recognition from the City of Toronto for businesses that voluntary adopt measures to reduce single-use and takeaway items.

The Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy – Stage 2 staff report was approved by Toronto City Council on December 15, 2023.

City Council adopted the Update and Action Plan on the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy, including the Circular Food Innovators Fund with amendments including the adoption of a new Single-Use and Takeaway Items By-law, which takes effect March 1, 2024.

The bylaw includes:

  • an “ask-first/by-request” approach for
    • accessory food items, such as straws, napkins, stir sticks, utensils, beverage takeout trays and condiment packages
    • paper shopping bags except for certain types of paper shopping bags, such as those used to hold bakery items and prescription or medication bags and
    • Compatibility of paper bags with the City’s diversion programs (i.e., no metal grommets or plastic handles).
  • the acceptance of reusable shopping bags and reusable beverage cups provided by customers at retail business establishments.

The City is committed to helping retail business establishments comply with the bylaw through targeted education and outreach activities, and collaboration with the City’s BIAs and other community partners.

Government of Canada

On November 16, 2023, the Federal Court of Canada quashed an order-in-council listing manufactured plastic items as toxic. The federal government has appealed the decision. As a result, the City will report back in Q1 2024 with any recommendations to adjust the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy Stage 2.

In 2025, Solid Waste Management Services will report back to City Council on further measures to reduce single-use and takeaway items, including the feasibility of expanding the Single-Use and Takeaway Items By-law to include:

  • large venues in Toronto;
  • the acceptance of reusable food containers provided by customers at retail business establishments; and
  • a requirement for retail business establishment operators to use reusable food containers and beverage cups in their dine-in operations in Toronto.

In June 2022, the federal government published the Single-use Plastic Prohibition Regulations (Regulations) to prohibit the manufacture, sale, import, export and distribution of six plastic manufactured items beginning in December 2022:

  • bags
  • stir sticks
  • six-pack rings
  • eating utensils
  • straws
  • food service ware made from or containing problematic plastics, such as extruded or expanded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, oxo-degradable plastics, and black plastic containers

The Regulations will come into force on a staggered timeline, which began with the prohibition of manufacture and import for sale in Canada of five of the six items on December 20, 2022. The prohibition of ring carriers came into effect June 20, 2023.

On November 16, 2023, a Federal Court of Canada ruling found the current legal basis for the Regulations to be unreasonable and unconstitutional, thereby compromising their enforcement. The federal government has appealed the decision.

Reducing single-use and takeaway items supports recommendations established in the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy (Waste Strategy), which was adopted by City Council in July 2016.

The Waste Strategy places priority on reducing waste and minimizing the amount sent to landfill, and directs the City to explore where greater waste reduction can be achieved through:

  • banning of certain packaging or materials
  • imposing levies
  • mandating source separation
  • implementing disposal bans
  • developing local Extended Producer Responsibility measures.

In July 2018, City Council directed staff in Solid Waste Management Services to:

  • consult with residents and stakeholder groups on single-use plastics and takeaway packaging items for targeted reduction, and solicit input on policy tools
  • develop a work plan aimed to reduce the use of single-use or takeaway packaging or products
  • develop a policy to restrict plastic straws in the City of Toronto.

Phase 1

Phase 1 public and stakeholder consultations were held in the fall of 2018.

Objectives

  • Identify the top priority single-use or takeaway items to reduce
  • Identify the preferred approaches (e.g. voluntary, mandatory or a combination) to reduce items

Activities

More than 20,000 people participated in Phase 1 consultation through the following:

  • Online survey
  • Public event, webcast and webinar
  • Stakeholder meetings
  • Direct email communications
  • Polling survey of 1,000 Toronto residents to gather statistically significant data

Watch the October 2, 2018 public event webcast online or view the presentation.

Results

As summarized in the Executive Summary Public Consultation Report on Phase 1 Consultation, the majority of participants expressed support for:

  • the reduction of single-use and takeaway items
  • reusable items instead of disposable items
  • the implementation of both mandatory and voluntary approaches to achieve reduction of these items in the city of Toronto.

Results of Phase 1 consultations are available in the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Public Consultation Report.

A summary and the results of the Phase 1 consultations are outlined in a report to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on May 23, 2019.

The responses to the quantitative questions in the online survey are available through the City of Toronto Open Data Portal.

Phase 2

Phase 2 public and stakeholder consultations were held in the fall of 2019.

Objectives

  • Gather feedback on approaches to reduce specific single-use and takeaway items
  • Gather feedback on proposed implementation timelines to reduce specific single-use and takeaway items

Activities

More than 41,000 people participated in Phase 2 consultation stakeholder and public consultation activities including:

  • Telephone/web town halls
  • Online survey
  • Public event and webcast
  • Stakeholder meetings
  • Polling

Watch the September 24, 2019 public event webcast online or view the presentation.

Results

Results of the Phase 2 consultations are summarized in the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy Phase 2 Public Consultation Report.  

In Phase 2, results from the independent polling found that:

  • 75% Toronto residents support by-request/ask first bylaws for single-use eating utensils and straws, and a ban on foam food containers/cups
  • A fee for hot drink cups had 64% support
  • Two thirds of residents believe that an additional single-use or takeaway item that should be targeted by the City’s Reduction Strategy is black plastic food containers.

Results from the online survey indicate that:

  • Participants placed highest priority on a bylaw to address expanded polystyrene (foam) products. 95% of respondents support a ban on expanded polystyrene (foam) food takeaway containers and cups
  • 84% support a fee per single-use hot or cold drink cups
  • 91% of survey participants support a fee per single-use plastic bag.

2022 Public Consultation

A third phase of consultation activities were undertaken in February and March 2022.

Objectives

To help inform the City of Toronto’s decisions on a proposed bylaw to reduce single-use and takeaway items, the City sought feedback from stakeholders and the general public to:

  1. understand the challenges related to mandatory measures
  2. Identify resources and supports needed by businesses to comply with the mandatory measures
  3. identify resources and supports needed by businesses to encourage the use of reusables in their operations

Activities

More than 12,000 people participated in interested parties and public consultation activities including:

  • Online survey
  • Virtual interested parties meetings
  • Virtual public meetings
  • Phone survey of businesses
  • Independent polling
  • Emails and written letters

View the Narrated Virtual Public Meeting Presentation

View the Non-Narrated Virtual Public Meeting Presentation

Results

Key findings from stakeholder and public feedback include:

  • Ensure that there is adequate promotion, communications and educational support
    surrounding these programs for businesses, consumers, community groups, and internal
    City divisions
  • Provide clarity on acceptable materials, alternative materials, exemptions, and how the
    fees collected will be used
  • Apply an equity lens to all programs, fees, and by-laws; consider the impacts of the
    COVID-19 pandemic
  • Ensure the fees for the single-use plastics program are reasonable for businesses to
    adopt
  • Provide support to businesses to be able to accept reusable container and/or revisit this
    aspect of the program
  • Extend the reduction strategy more broadly to manufacturers, grocers, and other
    packaging users

Results of the 2022 consultations are summarized in the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy Stage 2 Consultation Report

Solid Waste Management Services collects personal information under the legal authority of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, SO 2006, Chapter 11, Schedule A, s 136(b) and (c) and the City of Toronto By-law No 1321-2018. All information collected is in accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The information collected to connect participants to the Telephone Town Hall in Phase Two of the Single-Use and Takeaway Items consultations was used to call participants with the telephone number provided and send a link to the presentation by email.

Questions about this collection can be directed to the Manager, Public Consultation, Metro Hall, 19th Floor, 55 John Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 3C6 or by telephone at 416-392-2990.

Updates

To receive updates about the City’s Single-Use & Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy, subscribe to the Long Term Waste Management Strategy email list.