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

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. 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 applies to retail business establishments in Toronto. The primary goal of the bylaw is to reduce the use and disposal of specific single-use and takeaway items, regardless of the material and which waste stream (i.e. garbage, recycling or organics) they are managed in.

Bylaw Requirements

Under the bylaw a retail business establishment is required to:

  • Ask-First/By-Request
    • Prior to distributing a single-use accessory food item, either (i) ask a customer if they need the item, (ii) have a customer request the item, or (iii) make the item available to customers in a self-serve station.
    • Prior to distributing a single-use paper shopping bag, either (i) ask a customer if they need the bag or (ii) have a customer request the bag.
  • Accepting the use of Reusable Items
    • Accept the use of reusable shopping bags and beverage cups by customers.
  • Compatibility
    • Only distribute single-use paper shopping bags to their customers that are compatible with the City’s waste diversion programs.

 

Targeted Items Mandatory Measures as of March 1, 2024
Single-use accessory food items Ask-first/by-request
Paper shopping bags Ask-first/by-request

Compatibility

Reusable shopping bags provided by customers Mandatory acceptance
Reusable beverage cups provided by customers Mandatory acceptance

 

Applicability

It is the responsibility of of the retail business establishment operator to determine how best to operationalize the requirements of the bylaw in its own internal procedures to ensure compliance.

As the following are not considered retail business establishments, the bylaw does not apply to shelters, hospitals and medical facilities, places of worship, school nutrition programs and similar facilities that may provide single-use accessory food items as part of their operations. However, the bylaw does apply to retail business establishments locations within these organizations (e.g. a gift shop inside a hospital).

Exemptions from Bylaw

Retail business establishments that provide or permit the provision of accessory food items, single-use use paper shopping bags and beverages to a customer at a City property event or a a restricted event will not be subject to the bylaw. Definitions for these types of events are included below.

Definitions

A City property event is a single or multi-day public or private event that has been permitted by the City of Toronto to occur on city property.

A restricted event is a single day or multi-day public or private event restricted through requirement of a ticket or otherwise not open to the general public.

A retail business establishment is a premise, location or operation where goods and/or services are offered for sale, such as stores, online businesses, eating or drinking establishments, convenience stores, grocery stores, delicatessens, caterers, mobile food vendors, street vendors, vending machines, book stores and clothing stores.

A retail business establishment operator is a person who owns, manages, supervises, runs or controls a retail business establishment and includes a person who owns the premises where the retail business is operated

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

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 Bylaw, which takes effect March 1, 2024.

The City is committed to helping retail business establishments comply with the bylaw through targeted education and outreach activities.

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.

Reducing single-use and takeaway items supports recommendations established in the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy (Waste Strategy (opens in new window)), 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 (opens in new window) 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 (opens in new window) or view the presentation PDF.

Results

As summarized in the Executive Summary Public Consultation Report on Phase 1 Consultation PDF, 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 PDF.

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. (opens in new window)

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 (opens in new window) or view the presentation PDF.

Results

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

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 (opens in new window)

View the Non-Narrated Virtual Public Meeting Presentation PDF

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.