Given the urgent need to reduce the city's environmental footprint, Montreal will move to fully ban the distribution of plastic bags by the end of 2020, Mayor Valerie Plante said Wednesday.
Plante told a council meeting that the current measures that limit retailers to selling thicker bags haven't worked to reduce plastic waste.
"We have to reduce at the source, and that happens with behaviour changes," Plante said.
In 2018, Montreal implemented a bylaw that banned merchants from giving out lightweight plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns as well as biodegradable bags, which contain an additive that causes them to decompose in heat and light.
The hope was that offering only thicker bags would encourage people to reuse them, but Plante said that hasn't happened.
She tasked the city's director general to begin working to modify the existing bylaw in order to fully ban plastic bags by the end of the year.
"2020 is the last year of plastic bags in Montreal," the mayor said Wednesday.
The announcement comes as the province attempts to navigate a waste-management crisis with four Montreal-area recycling plants shutting their doors.
Plante said the recycling troubles were an "alarm" for the city that it needed to act on.
"We have to develop what to do with that plastic, but to think that before we sent it to Asia and closed our eyes, saying, 'I recycled' ... That doesn't hold up any more," she said.
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Montreal became the first major Canadian city to ban plastic bags when its measures went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
Last year, Plante announced the city would also seek to ban single-use plastics and forbid grocery chains and other stores from throwing out edible food and useful clothing, as part of its five-year plan to significantly reduce waste.
On Wednesday, she said the bag ban was an idea whose time had come, pointing out that major retail chains such as IGA are already phasing out plastic bags.
"We can't wait another 1,000 years to make decisions," Plante wrote on her Twitter account.
She also encouraged other Quebec municipalities to follow suit and implement similar bans.