By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Guess what city just mandated that businesses disclose their toxic chemicals, put a five cent price tag on plastic bags and set up a future ban on the sale of bottled water at city-owned centers as well as plastic take-out food containers?

Portland? San Francisco? They’ve taken some similar measures. But no, the latest municipality to get aggressive with consumer waste is Toronto, Canada’s largest and apparently greenest city.

This week the Toronto City Council set in motion a sweeping effort aimed at reducing the number of plastic disposables – grocery bags, water bottles and take-out cartons – that wind up in the local landfill.

A city news release on the laws outlines when they’ll take effect. The take-out cartons, for instance, won’t vanish for some time. The city has given restaurants until February 2011 to find alternatives, which could be made of biodegradable cardboard or polystyrene compatible with the city’s recycling system.

But the plastic bag fees will begin much sooner, on June 1, 2009, in an effort to push consumers toward reusable bags and totes.

“I’m very proud that Toronto is leading the way. It’s the right thing to do. Waste diversion begins with reduction and Torontonians want to reduce their dependence on disposable products,” said Mayor David Miller in a statement.

Residents have been supportive as Toronto has added several other green measures, said Stuart Green, the mayor’s press secretary. These changes have included a switch to a tiered garbage collection system in which those who generate less trash can use smaller waste bins and pay less, and the addition of organic waste collection, where residents send their compostable table scraps and paper waste in a green bin for curbside pickup.

“Every time we do something, they take it up in droves,” Green said.