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Toronto retailers continue to charge for bags, despite ban


Toronto grocers are still charging five cents for plastic bags despite the fact the city scrapped the fee effective July 1.

In a National Post article, grocers such as Loblaws, Metro, Highland Farms and Fiesta Farms, along with the Rexall PharmaPlus and Shoppers Drug Mart chains, are still charging the 5¢ fee, with most saying they're using the proceeds from selling plastic bags to fund charities.

“The impetus to do it is to help divert plastic bags from landfill,” said Tammy Smitham, spokeswoman for Shoppers Drug Mart in the article. “Several years ago, this was the main concern of customers. It was the main concern in municipalities. So, that’s why we are continuing to proceed with it.”

Shoppers Drug Mart donates some of its proceeds from plastic bag sales to women’s health charities while the rest is used for programs such as the insulation of energy management systems, lighting retrofits and waste reduction programs.

Meanwhile, in four years, Loblaws has donated $4-million of plastic bag proceeds to World Wildlife Fund initiatives like the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, National Sweater Day and Green CommUnity School Grants, said Loblaws spokeswoman Julija Hunter in the article. However, she said not all Loblaws proceeds from selling plastic bags goes to charity.

The charities will have to look for other sources of funds as council also voted to ban plastic bags altogether in January 2013.

Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who supported eliminating the bag fee, is upset retailers continue to charge for bags and said in the article: "I’m not the one to tell them what they should charge for their milk or their lettuce, but I don’t believe they should be charging for bags.”

Some retailers such as Canadian Tire and independent grocer Summerhill Market, have stopped charging the fee. Summerhill’s store manager Christy McMullen said in the National Post that “people should be able to donate to a charity of their choice. I think that it should be up to the consumer to choose if they want to come in and bring their own bags or not."

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