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Calgary Co-op pushes for exemption on federal single-use plastics ban

Retailer has worked with ECCC on the development of regulations that would govern the use of compostable bags across Canada
calgary co-op compostable bags
Photography courtesy Calgary Co-op

As Canada’s ban on single-use plastic bags in stores came into effect on December 20, one grocery retailer is hoping to convince the federal government why its compostable bags should be the exception. 

Calgary Co-op first introduced its 100% compostable, plastic-free bags on Earth Day 2019 and completely phased out its plastic bags by January 2020. “Calgary Co-op is proud of the extensive work we’ve done, in conjunction with the City of Calgary, to create a fully compostable shopping bag that contains 0% plastic and can be re-used in homes as a bin liner for organic waste,” says CEO Ken Keelor. “We have heard from our more than 400,000 members that they appreciate having this option available to them and that is why we’re asking Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to provide us with a common-sense exemption to the upcoming single use plastics ban.”

The Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations were published in June 2022 as part of the Government of Canada’s plan to reduce pollution and meet its target of zero plastic waste by 2030. The Regulations prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of single-use plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks and cutlery – as well as plastic rings used to package canned drinks. 

READ: Canadian grocers 'frustrated' over federal decision to include compostable bags in plastics ban

Calgary Co-op recently met with a member of Minster of Environment and Climate Change of Canada Steven Guilbeault’s team to provide evidence proving that the grocer’s bags are free of plastic and are suitable for re-use as compost bag liners. The retailer says it has also worked collaboratively with ECCC on the development of regulations that would govern the use of compostable bags across Canada. “It’s important that we do what we can to contribute to a common-sense set of regulations that would end the scourge of single-use plastics without punishing those of us who have done the work to develop an innovative solution for our customers,” says Keelor.

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calgary co-op compostable bags
Photography courtesy Calgary Co-op

If ECCC refuses to grant the exemption, Calgary Co-op says it will be permitted to sell its compostable bags a few feet away on store shelves, but just not at the checkout. 

ECCC spokesperson Samantha Bayard says once the ban comes into effect, grocers will not be able to sell plastic checkout bags or provide them for free. ECCC is looking at the best way to manage the use of excess or unnecessary plastic packaging in grocery stores and will be publishing a discussion paper in the coming weeks for public comment.

READ: Calgary Co-op debuts carbon-captured bar soap

The Government of Canada developed a management framework for single-use plastics that it says provides a transparent and evidence-based approach to determining how to manage risks to the environment posed by single-use plastics. To determine if a single-use plastic product should be banned, the framework considers whether the item is prevalent in the environment and whether it poses a threat of harm to wildlife and their habitat. It also considers whether the item is difficult to recycle and if it has any readily available alternatives.

“We have worked hard to ensure that our bags comply with the highest standards and are confident that the government will agree that they meet even the most stringent of regulations,” says Keelor.

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