Eliminating plastic bags from grocery stores in 2022

Plastic grocery bags are only used for an average of 12 minutes. It takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill.  Many plastics are also ending up in our waters and marine life mistake the bags for food.  

It’s high time plastic bags were eliminated from our stores!

Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault published draft regulations in December 2021 outlining how Canada will ban the manufacture, sale and import of plastic grocery bags, by the end of 2022.

Different bans in countries around the world

According to a United Nations paper and several media reports, 77 countries in the world have passed some sort of full or partial ban on plastic bags. While plastic bag bans are especially popular in Africa, a majority of the 32 countries who have opted instead to charge a fee (or tax) to limit plas

tic bag use are located in Europe.

France, Austria, Italy and - from 2022 onward - Germany, which have banned certain types of thin plastic bags and require them to be replaced with compostable ones - a very popular type of plastic bag ban around the world.

China outlawed thin plastic bags in 2008 and at the same time started to enforce a fee for sturdier bags. In early 2020, China announced it will substantially extent its laws to combat plastic bag use, first banning all non-compostable bags in major cities by the end of 2020 and extending this ban to the entire country by 2022.

The U.S. and Australia still lack country-wide bans or fees on plastic bags, even though those laws have been implemented in some states, such as California and New York.

India, which is also working on a new plastic bag ban after previous attempts remained unenforced, put plans on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What action are Canadian retailers taking?

Sobeys announced in July 2019, it would eliminate plastic grocery bags from their 255 locations by the end of January 2020, making it the first national grocery chain to do so. The change will remove 225 million plastic bags from circulation a year. 

Farm Boy eliminated plastic grocery bags across all stores on June 1st, 2021 and offer a selection of paid for paper (15 cents) and reusable bags (25 cents).

Walmart Canada has committed to phase out single-use plastic bags at its 400 sites by Earth Day 2022 (April 22). This will abolish single-use plastic shopping bags, eliminating the circulation of over 750 million plastic bags each year.

Loblaws Canada, has yet to make an official statement on eliminating plastic bags, although on a recent visit to a local superstore, I noticed plastic bags had been removed from the self-checkout area.  Loblaws began phasing out all black plastics from their control brand produce items in 2019 to improve the recyclability of produce packaging in their stores.  Although their ESG write up in respect to plastic usage across their stores is quite compelling, Loblaws has yet to commit to the elimination of plastic bags from their stores. https://www.loblaw.ca/en/plastics

Metro committed to reducing the number of single-use plastic shopping bags by 50% in its stores by 2023.  Its stores are subject to local municipality laws, some of which ban the use of plastic bags.  My local McKeen Metro, a trusted family owned local grocery store serving residents of the Glebe in Ottawa since 1910, still makes plastic bags available for a fee, and offer a paper bag as an alternative.

What alternatives do shoppers have?

Most grocery stores offer paid-for reusable and recyclable bags, starting at $0.10 although most are closer to 50 cents.

 Craft paper bags are often available for purchase at around $0.15, however some life cycle assessment studies dispute the efficiency of their environmental impact.

Most shoppers use a combination of bags, depending on their needs.  The Loblaws green shopping bin proved very popular and is still widely used today (although it is now blue!)

To transport fresh and frozen produce, we recommend using a cool box or an insulated cool bag, to avoid spoilage on the way home.  Leaving food in warm cars (in both winter and summer) is not a good idea! 

The Shopper from the Kool Bag Co. is a robust insulated bag that is specifically designed to carry heavy shopping loads.  It keeps dairy and frozen produce fresh from the store to your fridge or freezer.  And it conveniently fits inside the Loblaws bin to save space at home or the trunk of your car.


Available at the Kool Bag Co.

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