black plastic toronto

Toronto wants restaurants and grocers to stop using black plastic

Did you know that black plastic – as in the material used for takeout containers at pretty much every grocery store – can't be recycled in Toronto?

It's not the plastic itself that's problematic; it's that black doesn't reflect enough light for optical scanners to identify recycling codes, making it difficult to sort these types of containers properly.

That hasn't stopped people from tossing them in the blue box, however, mostly on account of ignorance.

In an effort to cut down on the amount of black plastic ending up in the wrong place, the City of Toronto has been reminding citizens online that black microwave trays and takeout containers belong in the garbage.

One of such reminders went out this morning from the city's official Twitter account with a link to its "waste wizard" tool, rekindling a debate that's been rearing its head every few months or so for years.

People are always quick to ask one thing when they find out about the black plastic rule: If it can't be recycled, why hasn't it been banned?

"Why are we allowing businesses to use black plastic? The city needs to step up and regulate industry," reads one of many responses to the city's tweet this morning.

"Why is this plastic even allowed?" asked someone else in response to another tweet about black plastic from yesterday. "There are so many recyclable plastics, I can't see any excuse for this."

Elsewhere, people have been pointing out that it's a bit misleading to put recycling codes on the bottom of black plastic containers – especially those that are manufactured right in Toronto.

Some people have been taking aim at specific establishments in recent months, encouraging them to phase out the material.

Stores like Costco, Longo's, Swiss Chalet and Boston Pizza have all been called out by customers recently for selling food in black plastic containers.

Plastic pollution is a huge problem worldwide, and one that consumers are paying more and more attention to thanks to the efforts of environmentalists and campaigns like Refuse The Straw.

The world currently produces 20 times more plastic than it did in 1964 and, according to the World Economic Forum, that's expected to double again in the next 20 years.

By 2050, experts predict that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.

The City of Toronto's official 311 contact centre did reply to one person last week after he called for a ban on black plastic, writing that "this would be a request for the Provincial or Federal governments."

"Municipalities cannot force manufacturers to stop using the product," continued the message.

"City staff have, however, been asked to report on options 'including, but not limited to, municipal fees and prohibitions' to reduce usage, or increase recycling, of many unrecyclable items, including black plastics."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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