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BC Liquor Stores begin switch to paper bags this month, will be province-wide by March

B.C. government liquor stores are the latest to begin phasing out plastic bags.

BC Liquor Stores across the province will be serving up beer and wine exclusively in paper bags by early March, the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) confirmed Thursday.

The province has selected Richmond-based Bulldog Bag Ltd. to be the official supplier of paper bags to all 197 government-run liquor stores in B.C., after the LDB released a request for proposals in August. 

Now that the provider has been selected, the LDB is aiming to begin the transition from plastic to paper on Vancouver Island, with all stores there switching over on Nov. 25.

READ MORE: B.C. Liquor Stores planning switch to paper bags province-wide by late fall

Metro Vancouver stores will follow with their own transition on Feb. 3, 2020. By March 9, 2020, the LDB says the province’s remaining stores will all be carrying paper bags exclusively.

“Our government is committed to protecting B.C.’s environment, both today and for future generations,” David Eby, Attorney General and minister responsible for the LDB, said in a press release.

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“Too often, single-use plastics end up polluting our oceans, waterways, parks and forests.”

Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags
Vancouver store hands out ’embarrassing’ plastic bags

The LDB says it currently distributes 22 million plastic bags per year to BC Liquor Stores across the province.

The paper bags replacing them will come with a 10-cent charge per bag, which is intended to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to stores. Municipalities are allowed to enforce a higher per-bag charge if they wish.

The LDB says BC Liquor Stores will provide one free reusable bag per customer for a limited time to further encourage the practice.

READ MORE: Vancouver market tries to end plastic bag use by printing embarrassing messages

Bulldog Bag will be tasked with providing an average of 2,000 paper bags per store every week.

That estimate is based of data collected from stores in Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet, Salmon Arm and Cumberland, which made the switch to paper bags earlier this year.

The bags will contain a minimum of 40 per cent recycled materials, be 100 per cent recyclable and compostable, and be able to carry a minimum of 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds) without breaking.

The LDB said that weight is equivalent to six bottles of wine, or a six-pack of beer and two bottles of wine.

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Questions about federal ban on single-use plastics
Questions about federal ban on single-use plastics

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said in a statement he was proud to have a local business chosen as the province-wide supplier.

“This effort to switch to paper from plastic is a big step toward protecting the environment and fits in well with our efforts through the National Zero Waste Council to advance waste prevention,” he said.

The move is independent from a provincial initiative to move towards a single-use plastics ban. The B.C. government held public engagement on the issue between July and mid-September.

READ MORE: B.C. government seeks public input on plastics ban, reduction strategies

Vancouver held its own public engagement on a plastic bag ban earlier this year, after committing to phasing out plastic straws and food containers by early 2020.

Other municipalities have already passed their own plastic bag bans. While Salmon Arm, Tofino and Ucluelet have made the switch, Victoria’s ban was recently tossed by the B.C. Court of Appeal after failing to get provincial approval.

The federal government has said it is exploring a Canada-wide reduction strategy for single-use plastics, including a potential plastic bag ban, by 2021.