Single-use items reduction strategy and ban

Single-use items survey for business

Survey open February 5 to March 8

Background Information

In 2019, Guelph City Council directed staff to develop a strategy to eliminate or reduce single-use plastics (SUPs) as part of the Solid Waste Management Master Plan (SWMMP) process.

Based on Council’s direction and based on the feedback we received during extensive community engagement, Council approved the single-use items (SUI) reduction strategy on April 25, 2022.

Phase 1: Single-use items ban

In Phase 1, the most problematic materials were banned on January 1, 2023, including:

  • plastic shopping bags (including certified and non-certified compostable plastic shopping bags and biodegradable shopping bags); and
  • polystyrene foam cups and takeout containers.

Note: All other single-use items and single-use plastics are not included in the City’s single-use items reduction strategy at this time.

Plastic shopping bags

Effective January 1, 2023, businesses in Guelph cannot provide plastic shopping bags for the purpose of transporting items sold or otherwise provided to customers. Businesses may provide reusable shopping bags or paper shopping bags with two handles to a customer and they may charge a fee. Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags when shopping.

Who the bylaw applies to

All businesses and licensees, charities, non-profits and City facilities in Guelph, including food delivery services and take out from food premises and food vehicles.

What is banned

All types of plastic bags including:

  • Plastic bags made wholly or partly from fossil fuels
  • Plastics bags labeled or described as compostable, (bio)degradable or oxo-degradable
  • Plastic bags labeled or described as made from plants or other biological materials such as corn, potatoes, or sugar cane


The plastic shopping bag ban does not apply to:

  • Bags that contain loose grocery items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, or candy (also known as produce bags)
  • Bags that contain loose small hardware items such as nails and bolts
  • Bags that protect bakery goods that are not pre-packaged
  • Bags used to package meat, poultry or fish, whether pre-packaged or not
  • Bags that wrap flowers or potted plants
  • Bags that transport live fish
  • Bags that protect newspapers or other printed material intended to be left at the customer’s residence or place of business
  • Bags that protect clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning
  • Certified compostable bags sold in multiples intended to hold organic waste for composting
  • Plastic bags sold in multiples for use at the customer’s home or business, including but not limited to garbage bags, bin liners and pet waste bags.

Note: Certified compostable plastic bags intended to hold organic waste for composting that have the BNQ and/or BPI symbol are not included in the ban. Guelph’s Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) can process certified compostable plastic bags, but our facility is not designed or permitted to process other certified compostable plastic products like food containers or cutlery.

Green label with BPI: compostable in industrial facilities COMPOSTABLE:
The list above is not complete. Other bags that do not meet the bylaw definition of plastic shopping bag are not subject to the ban at this time. Please contact [email protected] if you require clarification.

Suggested alternatives

  • Reusable shopping bags with two handles
  • Paper shopping bags (with two reinforced handles is encouraged)

Reusable bags safety practices

Follow reusable bag safety practices recommended by the Government of Canada

Donating reusable bags

  • The City has a list of organizations that accept donations of clean reusable bags in good working condition to distribute them to community members in need.
  • If you are a non-profit organization interested in receiving donated reusable shopping bags to distribute them to community members in need, please contact [email protected].
  • Need a reusable shopping bag? Pick one up for free from City facilities including City Hall, Evergreen Seniors Community Centre, West End Community Centre and Victoria Road Recreation Centre.

Polystyrene foam

Effective January 1, 2023, businesses in Guelph are banned from providing prepared food in polystyrene foam containers and cups to customers including plates, bowls, cups, trays, cartons and hinged or lidded containers. The ban applies to prepared food consumed at the business, served as takeout or delivery, and packaged as leftovers.

Who the bylaw applies to

All businesses and licensees, charities, non-profits and City facilities.


Single-use items ban poster for businessSuggested alternatives to single-use items

We have developed materials for businesses, licensees, charities, non-profits and City facilities to download and print, to help inform customers and staff of the single-use items reduction strategy. Please contact [email protected] to request printed materials.

For more information, please review the Single-Use Items Bylaw.

Phase 2: Fees for single-use items

Thank you for providing your feedback about proposed fees for reusable bags and disposable cups. We appreciated the community feedback, and having heard that some community members were supportive of fees, we’re focusing on changes businesses and customers can make to reduce the amount of single-use item waste they generate.

Phase 2a: Asking businesses to support our waste reduction strategy

Do you represent a food-service business in Guelph? How easy, or difficult would it be for your business to accept customers’ clean reusable cups and containers, or provide reusable foodware items like cutlery, plates and cups for dine-in food and beverages?

Businesses are invited to share their thoughts and feedback online at

Why the City is banning single-use items

Single-use items (SUIs) are designed to be disposed of after only one use. They are usually difficult to recycle or compost and commonly end up as litter polluting our environment and causing physical harm to some animals and their habitat. During the 2021 Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, styrofoam (polystyrene foam) pieces were the third and plastic bags were the eighth most collected litter.

The City of Guelph recently conducted a residential waste audit. The audit found that residents disposed of:

  • over 1,200 kg of single-use plastics (such as straws and single-use cutlery) per week
  • over 2,500 kg of expanded polystyrene foam per week
  • over 29,000 kg of polyethylene and laminated plastic film including plastic shopping bags, food wrappers, milk bags and chip bags per week

During our extensive community engagement, we heard that residents want actual waste reduction and elimination, not just substitution, and they want to balance accessibility with environmental outcomes. The focus of the SUI reduction strategy is to reduce waste in general, reduce waste sent to the landfill, and to see businesses, consumers and residents take more environmentally conscious actions.

The City encourages innovative ideas for reducing waste and will support new and existing initiatives within Guelph to support this change, such as encouraging local businesses to provide reusable takeout containers, to accept reusable cups, and to provide reusable bags to organizations that support those in need in the community.

How you can help reduce single-use item waste

  • Bring your own reusable bags or totes when shopping
  • Bring your own reusable cup or mug when purchasing a beverage-to-go
  • Bring your own take-out containers for leftovers when dining in or ask the restaurant to pack your take-out meal in your containers
  • Donate clean reusable bags in good working condition to non-profits who can distribute them to those in need in the community
  • Skip the single-use utensils and condiments if you can

Please review the Single-Use Items Bylaw for additional information.

Federal government’s ban on single-use plastics

The Government of Canada is banning six categories of harmful single-use plastics including checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics (e.g., polylactic acid, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene foam, oxo-degradable plastic, and black plastic made with carbon black), ring carriers used for bottles and cans, stir sticks and straws. The Regulations come into effect on a staggered timeline starting on December 20, 2022. The Federal Court in Ottawa recently overturned the national single-use ban, however Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Justice Minister Arif Virani announced the government’s intention to appeal in a joint statement on November 20, 2023.

For more information:

For more information

Solid Waste Resources
TTY: 519-826-9771
[email protected]