Alberta government examines whether Edmonton, Calgary can pass single-use item bylaws

A fast food bag is seen discarded in a parking lot in Calgary, on Jan. 16, 2024, the same day the city's Single-Use Items Bylaw came into effect. Global News

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has asked the minister of Municipal Affairs to look into whether bylaws in Edmonton and Calgary that require people to pay for things like take-out and reusable bags are within municipal jurisdiction.

Earlier this month, Calgary City Council passed a single-use item bylaw which requires businesses to provide cutlery and/or condiments by request only, provide shopping bags by request only, and charge a minimum fee for paper and reusable bags.

Edmonton has had a similar bylaw in place since last year. Earlier this week, Edmonton councillors moved to increase the fees for paper and reusable bags, effective this summer.

The goal behind the bylaws is to create less waste.

During an unrelated news conference Thursday, Smith said she believes “there’s a little bit of ideology getting ahead of commonsense” with these bylaws.

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“If we’ve got a garbage management problem, let’s figure out how to manage the garbage, let’s figure out better waste collection,” Smith said.

“I can tell you I’m not supportive of the decisions in both Calgary or Edmonton but I’ve put it to my minister of Municipal Affairs to see if they’ve gone outside the realm of the MGA (Municipal Government Act).”

Click to play video: 'Fees for paper and reusable bags going up in July in Edmonton'
Fees for paper and reusable bags going up in July in Edmonton

During a committee meeting earlier this week, Edmonton city staff admitted they do not have hard data to show whether the fee is serving its intended purpose of cutting back on waste.

In a statement to Global News, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he is confident the city’s single-use item bylaw is in accordance with the city’s authority under the MGA.

“The MGA authorizes the city to pass bylaws for environmental purposes and to regulate businesses,” Sohi said.

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“Edmonton’s Single-use Item Reduction Bylaw helps reduce waste by targeting items that can easily be avoided or replaced with reusable options.

“Single-use item bylaws are a common feature of waste bylaws in a number of major cities in North America, as well as other municipalities here in Alberta.”

In the meantime, Smith encourages people opposed to the bylaws to reach out to their city councillors or mayor.

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