For the past four months, Ted Hogan has been living with a terrible uncertainty—what if Toronto bans plastic bags?
When he started his Scarborough-based packaging distributor, EJ Bags and Boxes, with his wife 30 years ago, he had no way to know that his products could one day be declared illegal.
“Day by day, until the bag ban comes through, you sell what you can sell,” said EJ’s longtime administrator, Stephanie Davidson, last Friday at the four-employee company’s office. “But it’s always in the back of your mind. What’s it going to be like six months from now?”
City council’s decision last June to phase out plastic bags by Jan. 1, 2013, was revisited this Wednesday, with a motion by councillor Peter Milczyn to reverse the ban. The vote took place after The Grid went to press, but the result could leave Hogan with a lot of hard-to-move inventory.
As he perused the shelves of his four-room office and warehouse on Friday, the 82-year-old championed his much-maligned products, from record sleeves to black adult-video bags. “I don’t understand people who say, ‘Gee whiz! Plastic is bad and paper is wonderful!’” he said. “Its just hard to imagine that anyone can look at a paper bag and say that it’s better for the environment…it doesn’t just disappear when you throw it in the garbage.”
Maybe not—though paper does biodegrade quicker. And plastic bags, manufactured from crude oil, are famous for their centuries-long lifespans and tendency to accumulate and pollute soil, waterways, and ecosystems.
EJ does offer a line of biodegradable bags that are supposed to break down within 18 months, but since they’re not recyclable, they’re also on track to be banned. Davidson, however, doesn’t buy the argument that they’re environmentally unfriendly: “One day, I walked by one on the wall, and just with the wind of me passing it crumbled to the ground,” she said. “I witnessed it biodegrade in front of me.”