As of Monday, Montreal becomes the first major city in Canada to ban lightweight plastic bags in retail stores.

Montreal's new city bylaw prohibits the distribution of plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns (0.05 millimeters) -- very thin bags that are commonly used in businesses.

Bags that contain an oxidizing agent (oxodegradable, oxofragmentable and biodegradable bags) will be completely banned, regardless of their thickness. These bags are problematic, because they can contaminate other forms of recycling and take much longer to break down. 

There will be exceptions for packing fruit and vegetables, medicine and drycleaning, but for the most part, customers will now have to use bags larger than 50 microns, paper bags, or reusable bags.

Businesses will have until June 5th to comply with the newly-established rules -- the six-month grace period was established so that Montrealers could adapt to the changes. 

Retailers violating the bylaw could be fined up to $2,000 for the first offense, and $4,000 for a second.

During the first six months, city representatives will meet with merchants to help them comply with the rules and ease the transition.

A few countries worldwide have already enacted similar bans: France, Italy, and Rwanda among them.

Hawaii and California have statewide bans on plastic bags. 

In Quebec, municipalities like Brossard and Deux-Montagnes have already phased out the use of plastic bags.

With files from The Canadian Press.