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Single-use plastics reduction strategy gets the green light

Media Type: Print
Outlet: Calgary Herald
Author: Brodie Thomas
Published Date: October 7, 2022
Councillors skeptical of a city-mandated fee for grocery bags pushed back against a single-use waste reduction strategy at a meeting Wednesday evening, but a majority of council approved the plan. With the federal government set to ban many single-use plastic items such as shopping bags, takeout containers and plastic straws in late 2023, the city's new strategy is not a ban but rather a waste- reduction initiative. On Wednesday, council approved the creation of a bylaw, which will come back to council in the fall of 2023 for final approval. The motion was approved 11-4, with councillors Sean Chu, Andre Chabot, Jennifer Wyness and Dan McLean opposed. The city's strategy includes mandatory fees for both paper bags and reusable bags. Wyness said those fees amounted to a regressive tax. The city is planning to make retailers charge a mandatory fee of 15 cents per paper bag and $1 for a reusable bag, with the profits staying with retailers. "Why are we setting a minimum fee on a profiting industry?" asked Wyness. Administration said the mandatory fees are meant to level the playing field for smaller businesses, preventing larger retailers from offering free bags as an incentive to draw shoppers in. The fees are also meant to encourage shoppers to simply bring their own bags, rather than purchasing new ones or relying on paper bags. Administration said a recent waste audit showed 3.5 million single- use grocery bags per week end up in city landfills. Wyness and Coun. Peter Demong expressed concern that composting can't be a larger part of the solution, rather than fees. Last month, Calgary Co-op said it was told by federal officials that it could no longer offer single compostable grocery bags at the checkout, but only sell them in bulk offthe shelves. "The compostable bag issue from the Co-op is frustrating me to no end as well," said Demong. "I understand it is still a single-use material. But they've gone numerous times to the federal government with the City of Calgary in hand trying to argue that this should not be considered part of the ban. They have had zero luck." While composting solutions result in zero waste, the city's strategy aims to reduce any waste going into the city's waste disposal stream. Coun. Courtney Walcott tried to drive that message in his debate. "Paper bag, plastic bag, it's really about getting rid of all of it," he said. "The federal government will take care of plastic bags in 2023. And here we are just trying our best with this policy to incentivize the use of other bags that are much more durable, long- lasting and will not find their way after a single use into the garbage regardless of their composition." Twitter: @brodie_thomas
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