A new agreement by grocery industry groups and the Province of Alberta is expected to see a drastic reduction of plastic grocery bags.
Liked for their convenience, but loathed for the strain they put on landfills and the mess they create, the Alberta government and Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores have reached a voluntary agreement to cut the number of plastic bags in circulation. They have set a target of seeing the 2008 number of bags cut in half by 2013.
“Many Albertans are concerned with the number of plastic bags littering streets and entering landfills,” said Rob Renner, Minister of Environment. “This agreement with retailers is an important step in reducing plastic bag waste in every community.”
Many retailers in Drumheller are already taking steps to curb the number of bags.
Darryl Jacques, manager of Freson IGA said as much as the bags are a convenience, grocers are concerned with the waste generated by bags, and says more customers are choosing not to use them.
“More people are conscious of it for sure,” said Jacques.
Freson IGA, like many other retailers, have been selling reusable shopping bags. This could help the store’s bottom line by not having expense of supplying plastic bags for many orders.
“There is an expense, it’s not that great, but when you look at it over the year, it does add up,” said Jacques. “At the same time, we are not trying to make money on reusable bags.”
Dave Kosolofski, controller for Drumheller Co-op says they too are making an effort to promote reusable shopping bags.
“On occasion we’ll do promotions where we give the reusable bags away with certain purchases to get them out there and people using them,” said Kosolofski.
The store makes other efforts.
“We try to minimize as many plastic bags as we can throughout the course of the day,” said Kosolofski. “We also accept the plastic bags back in our recycle centre, and we ship them back for recycling. So we do try to keep them out of the landfill by recycling them through our wholesaler.”
He says plastic bags cost the store anywhere from 3-5 cents each, and while some retailers have begun to charge for bags, he says this is a route the Drumheller Co-op would not explore.
Some industry best practices list include:
Reduce usage of new plastic bags
• Train staff to put a sticker or tape on large items instead of bagging.
• Offer consumers a choice to bring their own bag.
• Train staff to maximize the efficient use of bags by increasing the number of items packed in each bag.
• Train staff to ask consumers if they need a bag for smaller purchases.
Provide alternatives to plastic bags
• Promote and offer for use/sale reusable cotton, net, or recycled plastic bags in lieu of providing free plastic bags.
• Offer reusable bags for sale at cost, a deep discount or, in some instances, at no charge.
• Offer reusable bin programs.
• Offer recycled cardboard boxes as a carry-out option.
• Offer compostable carry bags for sale or at point-of-sale.
Provide incentives to consumers to reuse or use alternatives
• Provide consumers with incentives (i.e. rebate, loyalty points) to change behaviour and use fewer plastic bags or no bags at all.