Plastic Bags

Myths: Fact or Fiction

Degrade in Landfill Myth

The Single Use Myth

Recycling

Paper vs. Plastic Bags


Paper vs. Plastic Studies

Reusables Greener?

Types of Bags

Litter: The Facts
Public Health

Canada Update

Bags Around the World

The Oil Myth

Made in Canada
Ireland's Bag Tax
Litter: The Facts

Fiction: Plastic shopping bags are a serious litter problem in Canada.

Fact: No. Plastic shopping bags represent less than 1% of all litter.

The Facts

  • While litter may be a serious problem in some countries, plastic shopping bags are not considered to be a litter problem in Canada because of the strong commitment of Canadians to product stewardship (the 3 Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle) and protecting the environment.
  • Litter audit data from major Canadian municipalities shows that plastic shopping bags are less than 1% of litter.

  • The City of Toronto 2006 Litter Audit shows that plastic shopping bags were only 0.8% of the entire litter stream.

  • Both paper and plastic shopping bags, together, are still a small fraction of litter.

  • Litter is a people problem, not a litter problem. Even if you removed all the plastic shopping bag litter, 99% of the litter would still be a problem.

More Detail

Canadian Litter Audit Data

  GTA Litter Studies of Public Street Locations (Greater Toronto Area):


Location

Year of Litter Audit

Total Number of Large Littered Items

Total Number of Plastic Retail Bags in Litter

% of Plastic Retail Bags in Litter

Peel Region

2003

4,363

3

0.1%

Durham Region

2003

5,698

18

0.32%

York Region

2003

8,678

34

0.39%

City of Toronto

2004

5,243

11

0.2%

City of Toronto

2006

4,341

6

0.13%

 2003 Peel Region Litter Audit

  • A litter audit conducted in Peel Region in Ontario in 2003 found only three plastic bags out of 4,363 litter items (0.1%).1

 2003 Durham Region Litter Audit

  • In Durham Region's 2003 litter audit, 5,698 large items were counted, and only 18 plastic shopping bags (0.3% of the litter stream).2 

2003 York Region Litter Audit

  • York Region's 2003 litter audit found only 34 plastic shopping bags out of 8,678 large items (0.4% of the litter stream).3

2004 City of Toronto Litter Audit

  • The 2004 litter audit In the City of Toronto, found only 11 plastic shopping bags out of 5,243 large items in their 2004 streets litter audit (0.2% of the litter stream), while miscellaneous paper items (e.g. napkins, cardboard, paperboard) made up about 26% of all the items counted.

2006 City of Toronto Litter Audit

  • Two years later, the 2006 City of Toronto litter audit similarly found only six plastic bags out of 4,341 items counted or 0.13% of the litter stream.
  • 2006 City of Toronto Litter Audit

2012 City of Toronto Litter Audit

 2006 City of Toronto Litter Audit – BAG BREAKOUT
     Final Report - 07 October 2006 35, 3.2.3 Bags

     Bags Sub-Category Summary (2006)

 

Items

% of Sub-Category

% of Total Litter

Plastic Bags - not retail

 69.0

47.4%

1.59%

Paper bags - fast food   

  39.5

27.1%

0.91%

Paper bags - not retail     

  15.5

10.7%

0.36%

Zipper bags/ sandwich  

  12.5

  8.6%

0.29%

Plastic retail bags

    5.5

  3.8%

0.13%

Paper retail bags

    3.5

  2.4%

0.08%

 Total

145.5

100%

3.35%

2005 Observations

238

 

2.55%

Litter Survey Links - Canada:

1 Region of Peel Litter Survey 2003, MGM Management, 2003
2 Regional Municipality of Durham Litter Survey 2003, MGM Management, 2003
3 The Regional Municipality of York 2003 Litter Survey, MGM Management, 2003

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