As of Saturday, Central Alberta Sobeys stores are going plastic-bag-free — with Safeway stores soon to follow.
Sobeys Inc. will be the first grocery chain in Canada to ban all single-use plastic bags at the end of January at 255 stores from coast to coast.
Sobeys officials estimate this will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation each year. A statement from the chain says this is enough bags to wrap around the world — twice.
Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own re-usable bags on their grocery shopping trips. If they forget, Sobeys will be selling large reusable grocery bags for 99 cents, smaller reusable bags for 25 cents, and paper bags for 10 cents, with a portion of paper bag sales going to plant trees in Canada.
Some other retailers in the Red Deer area have been charging customers for plastic bags to reduce their use.
But as “a leader in sustainability,” Sobeys wants to promote reusable options because “plastic use is not something we can recycle our way out of,” states a company release.
“It will take a combination of reducing, reusing and recycling to make an impactful and sustainable change.”
Sobeys Inc.’s other banners — including Safeway, FreshCo and Foodland — are working to phase out single-use plastic checkout bags at their stores, with dates yet to be announced.
According to the Canadian government, 15 billion plastic bags are used in Canada every year. The amount of petroleum it takes to drive a car 1.6 kilometres is the same amount needed to produce 14 plastic bags — which on average, are used for just 12 minutes and take more than 500 years to decompose in landfills.
In 2019, the Canadian government announced plans to “ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021 in an effort to reduce the three million tons of plastic waste tossed out by the country every year.”
Many stores in B.C. are already plastic bag free, largely because of limitations imposed by municipalities.
Victoria banned single-use shopping bags two years ago, but an appeal court struck down this ban last summer, ruling it was invalid without provincial endorsement.
Vancouver is now looking at imposing similar rules in 2021. Since the City of Vancouver operates under a different charter than Victoria, staff believe they can act on this.