It was three years ago that Huntington, Quebec, and Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, pioneered plastic bag bans that were eventually adopted by other cities in Canada. New estimates by Environment Canada say that Canadians are now using fewer plastic bags, and the amount handed out by grocery stores across the country has dropped significantly.
Metro, a grocery store chain in Ontario and Quebec, reported a 50% drop in the demand for plastic grocery bags only one month after they implemented a five-cent charge per bag in June of 2009. Today, the demand for plastic grocery bags in their stores has decreased by 80%. Metro also reported that despite introducing reusable bags five years ago, demand for plastic bags didn’t drop at all until the fee was introduced.
Maritime grocery store chain Atlantic Superstore has also reported a drop in bags, despite dropping the five-cent fee only a few months after introducing it in 2009. There is no law in the Atlantic provinces mandating a five-cent plastic bag fee like there is in Toronto, so the plastic bags in those stores are free. Atlantic Superstores decided to keep theirs free because every other nearby retailer also supplied plastic bags for no charge. However, Atlantic Superstores began paying one cent to customers who brought in their own reusable bags, and recently reported that demand for plastic bags has dropped by 55%.
Canadians are still bringing home 55 million plastic shopping bags every single week, according to Environment Canada. So far, four provinces (including Ontario) have partnered with the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributers to reduce plastic bag use by half within five years.
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