On New Year’s Day, Fort Frances will become the first municipality in Ontario to implement a comprehensive single-use plastics ban, according to information compiled by the Retail Council of Canada.

The new bylaw bans the distribution of plastic grocery bags and prohibits businesses from providing single-use plastics for carrying and consuming food.  

“It was remarkably easy, actually,” said Coun. Douglas Judson of bringing the community and his fellow council members on board with the changes.

The bylaw, which is modelled on legislation in Nova Scotia and Thompson, Man., contains a number of exceptions. It allows plastic bags to be used to carry items such as fresh fish, dry-cleaned clothes, and loose items such as screws and nails, he said.

It also allows businesses to give out plastic straws upon request, so that people with disabilities who rely on them can still access them, he added.

“It still ensures that we’re meeting our goal of removing most of these harmful single-use products from consumption while meeting those accessibility needs and accommodating those who have certain needs in our community,” Judson said.

Businesses that violate the ban face fines between $100 and $10,000, but those penalties don’t kick in until January 2022, Judson said, so businesses will have time to use up existing stock of plastics and make necessary changes to their procedures.

“I think that is important right now,’ he said, “because as you know, a number of businesses have special protocols in place due to the pandemic and so forth.”

The only other Ontario municipality to implement any kind of plastic ban in the New Year is the south-central Ontario town of Mono, which is banning plastic bags.