City seeks to increase shopping bag fees and reduce single-use items

The proposed statute in Calgary would focus on the reduction and substitution of single-use plastic items that will occur


A city committee is set to discuss a single-use item reduction strategy that would increase the price of paper bags and new reusable bags in an effort to encourage less waste.

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The proposed statute would require Calgary businesses to charge a minimum fee of $0.15 for paper shopping bags, $1 for new reusable shopping bags, and ensure their paper bags contain at least 40 percent of recycled materials. There would be a second price increase a year after the statute took effect, raising costs to a minimum of $0.25 for paper bags and $2 for new reusable bags.


The strategy would also implement a “per order” requirement for all food items such as straws, stir sticks, utensils and toothpicks, regardless of their material. This would also include prepackaged condiments and napkins.

Earl Richard Pootmans said he looks forward to the community development committee’s discussion of the strategy during Tuesday’s meeting.

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“Mixed feelings, but I think it’s probably the right direction,” Pootmans said Monday.

He said that many people have already changed their habits to carry reusable bags when they go to the supermarket. He wants more information from the city administration on how the federal government’s plastic ban would work with the proposed local statute.

the recommendation to committee by the city administration comes after the federal government has approved a ban on many single-use plastic items. By the end of this year, companies will be banned from importing or manufacturing plastic bags, takeaway containers and four other categories of plastic.

A waste composition study completed in Calgary in 2019 found that approximately 3.5 million plastic shopping bags, 6.4 million plastic utensils, 2.4 million takeout containers and 2.4 million Disposable cups are disposed of in the residential and commercial trash streams each week.

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With a ban on plastic items at the federal level, the proposed statute in Calgary would focus instead on the reduction and substitution of single-use plastic items that will occur.

“The focus is on reducing waste from single-use items regardless of composition, not simply replacing single-use plastic items with single-use items made from other materials (even if recyclable or compostable),” he says. the city administration report. .

According to a waste reduction survey conducted by the city in 2021 and 2022, 91% of Calgarians believe the city should play a role in reducing waste from single-use items, through education, the disclosure and development of regulations for companies.

The waste reduction survey indicated that 87 percent of Calgarians bring their own shopping bags to the grocery store all or most of the time.

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Robert Tremblay with the Calgary Climate Hub holds up a pocket reusable shopping bag in Quarry Park on Monday, September 26, 2022.
Robert Tremblay with the Calgary Climate Hub holds up a pocket reusable shopping bag in Quarry Park on Monday, September 26, 2022. Gavin Young/Post Media

The city administration report says that promoting reusable products, reducing the use of single-use products of any material, and ensuring the lowest impact end-of-life scenario will reduce Calgary’s environmental footprint.

Earl Jennifer Wyness said the proposal feels like a “clickbait policy” that the federal government has already initiated.

“We have Co-op that has come up with a compostable bag and we would be penalizing that innovation,” Wyness said. “What is the problem we are trying to solve and how are we incentivizing innovation? I don’t think this will.”

If the strategy is approved, the city’s waste and recycling services will work with the engagement team and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) to better understand how the city can support the transition and address concerns.

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“Given that the federal government has the most power to really make a change in Canada, and that companies are already adapting and making changes in this field, I feel like some of the ideas here are not solutions,” Wyness said.

“What are we achieving? What we are doing when we start adding fees to these exchanges is increasing the profit margins of corporations. How do we make sure we’re not just incentivizing more profits for companies?”

Angela McIntyre of the Calgary Climate Hub said the group supports policy decisions on waste reduction like this.

He added, however, that this strategy on single-use items seems hackneyed compared to the much larger environmental impacts of other city decisions, such as suburban expansion, especially after the current city council declared a state of emergency. climate.

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Robert Tremblay, also of the Calgary Climate Hub, said it’s good for the environment and climate that the city encourages less shopping bag and food waste.

“It seems short-sighted to change one single-use thing to another single-use thing, so I think it’s good to focus on moving towards a circular economy model rather than just swapping plastics for paper,” he said.

“It is important to reduce our use of landfills. Using reusable shopping bags makes a lot of sense.”

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from Edmonton the city council is in talks about a similar statute that would see the minimum price for paper bags rise to $0.25 and reusable bags to $2, with an exemption for charities. If approved by the council, the charter would take effect in July 2023.

The statute in Edmonton would also require restaurants to serve beverages in reusable cups for dinner service and create policies for handling reusable tableware. A public hearing on the proposed statute is scheduled for October.

In an effort to reduce the impact Calgary’s proposed statute could have, the city administration says charities would be exempt from bag fees, stores would be encouraged to accept bag donations for a bag program shared and the city would look for a free reusable bag. system for low-income locals.

If the strategy is approved by the Calgary community development committee, it would go to the council for a final vote at the next combined meeting. The statute would take effect in early 2024 if approved by the council.

With files from Michael Rodriguez

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Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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