The city-mandated plastic bag charge doesn’t take effect until June, but one major retailer has started its pay-per-bag campaign early.
As of Monday, GTA shoppers will shell out five cents per bag at Loblaws if they don’t bring their own reuseable ones. The grocery chain hopes the program will help divert 1 billion plastic bags from landfills by the end of the year.
“We have had consistent feedback from Canadians about their support of our environmental initiatives,” explained Loblaw Co.’s Inge van den Berg.
“Torontonians are looking for ways to take action to protect the environment and the Loblaw initiative is another step in the right direction to help reduce waste.”
The money will be used to cover costs, and the rest will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund. Many shoppers have already made the switch to the reusable cloth or canvas versions.
“We use reusable bags. We have a whole set of them at home, and it will be good incentive for us to remember to bring them as well,” explained shopper Melissa Armstrong.
And Thelma Akyea adds, “I do think people should start to use their own bags, so, I mean, I guess they’re just taking advantage of it a little earlier.”
Loblaws estimates that charging for bags will reduce their use by nearly 55 percent.
It’s a taste of things to come – all major retailers will be required to charge for plastic bags come June 1. That’s when the city’s new bylaw takes effect.
“I’m very proud that Toronto is leading the way,” Mayor David Miller remarked in December, when city council made its decision to charge for the disposable carry-alls. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Critics of the new law argue retailers can use the extra five cents per bag any way they wish. Also, the city no longer has to pay to recycle the bags.
“People will still need plastic bags for their garbage, organic waste, and other uses such as picking up after their pets. The only difference is that the city is making them more expensive,” said Kevin Gaudet, Acting Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
But City Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker suggests the potential environmental benefits outweigh the costs.
“I’m sure I will sooner or later go to Loblaws or a grocery store and forget mine and have to pay it as well. But that’s the reminder to you and I every time you go into your grocery store, ‘Oh, I’ve got to pay 25 cents now because I used that many bags,'” the councillor explains.
“When I’ve shopped at No Frills and I stand in line, when they say how many bags do you want, people go one, two, three. Not four, not five, not six. I only want three so I save money. So that’s what we want to do. We want to reduce the volume of bags.
“We want to have a good recycling program but we have to send the price signal to the consumer, you’re consuming a precious natural resource. Please use less. So don’t double bag your bread. Use only one bag and only pay one nickel.”
The Loblaws campaign, which begins in Toronto, rolls out nationally on Earth Day, April 22.
So if you ‘bag’ to differ, what should you do instead of using the ubiquitous tote sacks?
Here are some suggestions.
- Reuse old shopping bags when you go shopping.
- Buy a tote bin in which to carry your groceries.
- For small items, refuse a plastic bag.
- Bring your own canvas tote bags.
- Try a box instead of a bag
- Don’t double bag unless absolutely necessary
Tips from: Environmental Action Barrie
For more ways to avoid using or to reuse plastic bags, click here.