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Customers receive plastic biodegradable plastic bags when shopping at Noah's Natural Foods on Yonge St., Toronto on November 26, 2008. Toronto’s public works committee voted in favour of abandoning the issue once and for all on June 19, 2013. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Customers receive plastic biodegradable plastic bags when shopping at Noah's Natural Foods on Yonge St., Toronto on November 26, 2008. Toronto’s public works committee voted in favour of abandoning the issue once and for all on June 19, 2013. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Rob Ford bangs the 'final nail in the coffin' in Toronto's plastic bag debate Add to ...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he made a surprise appearance at a public works committee meeting to put the “final nail in the coffin” in the city’s plastic bag debate.

The committee voted Wednesday to receive a staff report on the matter. As a result, the issue will not move on to council.

Council voted in June 2012 to impose a ban on plastic bags, following a wild, 11-hour debate. It later overturned the ban, following threats of legal action.

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Council also voted last year to rescind a five-cent fee on plastic bags, though some stores still charge their customers.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the committee’s chair, said shortly after Wednesday’s vote he considers the issue “dead.”

Mayor Ford struck a similar tone, saying the plastic bag debate was an important issue for taxpayers and he wanted to ensure it didn’t rise up.

“Today, I cast my vote as mayor at the public works and infrastructure committee … to make sure we put the final nail in the coffin of this plastic-bag fee once and for all,” he told reporters.

The staff report offered four options on what to do with plastic shopping bags: no mandatory fee or ban, mandatory fee, mandatory ban, or an education and communication plan. It said the five-cent fee had previously been “effective” and there was a 53 per cent reduction between 2008 and 2012.

An Ipsos Reid poll mentioned in the report found 36 per cent of residents wanted no further action on plastic bags, 44 per cent wanted a five-cent fee, and 19 per cent wanted a ban.

Mr. Minnan-Wong said he believed the public had had enough of the plastic bag debate.

“I think from that last debate the public was exceedingly frustrated and what they said is, ‘We don't want to have this debate anymore. Let's move on to some of the real issues and substantial issues that this city has to deal with.’”

Councillor Janet Davis said Wednesday’s result was “sad” because the committee voted to “completely abandon probably one of the most effective waste diversion strategies we’ve had.”

Mayor Ford said Torontonians pay enough in taxes and don’t need to be nickel-and-dimed every time they go to the grocery store.

He said the city has approved the first step in developing a plan to deal with solid waste for the next 30 to 50 years, and staff will create a comprehensive waste strategy over the next 12 months.

When asked if the city should incinerate its garbage, he said he would support “some sort of burning methodology,” as other cities do.

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