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Public to speak to city council on Calgary’s single-use items bylaw

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Public to speak to city council on Calgary’s single-use items bylaw
Calgarians will have their say on a new bylaw aimed at single-use items. It comes as the federal government's ban on single-use plastics took effect last month. Adam MacVicar reports – Jan 16, 2023

Calgarians will have the chance Tuesday to speak to city council about a new bylaw aimed at reducing single-use items from local landfills.

In October, city council approved the creation of a bylaw to respond to the millions of single-use items, such as bags and utensils, that are thrown away in residential and commercial garbage every week.

That bylaw proposes a mandatory minimum fee for local businesses to charge $0.15 for paper bags and $1.00 for reusable bags.

Those minimum fees would increase to $0.25 per paper shopping bag and $2.00 per new reusable shopping bag after the first year the bylaw is implemented.

The bylaw will also make food ware accessories like forks, straws, stir sticks and napkins only available by customer request.

“This is about that collective effort towards a societal betterment,” Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said. “We’re reducing plastics which we know is good on many levels from pollution to emissions and production.”

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The bylaw also includes a requirement that paper shopping bags contain at least 40 per cent recycled content.

It comes after a federal government ban on the manufacturing and importing of certain single-use plastics like checkout bags, cutlery, food service ware, stir sticks and straws took effect in December.  A ban on the sale of those items will come into effect next year as part of the federal plan.

“Businesses right now are looking at, or should be looking at, alternatives to those products where necessary and asking what environmental impact those alternatives will have in comparison to those that are being replaced,” Retail Council of Canada prairies government relations director John Graham told Global News.

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Graham said the Retail Council of Canada is keeping an eye on the Calgary bylaw, and its impact on takeout and quick service restaurants, as well as its alignment with other similar municipal bylaws.

Paddy’s BBQ and Brewery have been waste-free for nearly eight years, according to its owner Jordan Sorrenti.

But the move is costly with compostable containers at $0.35 per container instead of a cheaper foam option, and paper bags costing $0.50 instead of a nickel for plastic bags.

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“I’m all for going 100 per cent compostable, but it is going to be a price,” Sorrenti told Global News. “It’s going to be a price to the consumer, and it’s a competitive business.”

Sorrenti said he doesn’t charge a fee for the containers, but added he felt it’s fair that businesses can charge the cost recovery through fees included in the bylaw.

“A lot of businesses depend on a lot of takeaways, the ones that have the more takeaway are going to feel the pinch, and seriously you do feel the pinch,” Sorrenti said. “When you go shopping you find that 20 per cent of your bill is in compostables and stuff that you’re giving away, you’re going to think twice about giving it away.”

According to a 2019 city study, around 3.5 million plastic shopping bags, 6.4 million plastic utensils, 2.4 million takeout containers and 2.4 million disposable cups end up in the landfills every week.

Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness said the bylaw isn’t necessary as that waste will be diverted from the landfill under the federal regulations on single-use plastics.

“Under the federal ban, we’re dealing with paper bags that will end up in your green cart, and utensils made out of wood which will end up in your green cart,” Wyness said. “Right out of the gates with the federal ban, we are already diverting from the landfill to the compost facility. The question is, what is our metric of success on this?”

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Calgarians can sign up to speak on the single-use items bylaw at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The bylaw is set to take effect on January 16, 2024.

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