As stores ditch shopping bags, what’s next for Canada’s plastic ban?

Click to play video: 'Is Canada’s single-use plastic ban truly environmentally friendly?'
Is Canada’s single-use plastic ban truly environmentally friendly?
WATCH: Is Canada's single-use plastic ban truly environmentally friendly? – Dec 21, 2022

Canadians might soon notice a change at the supermarket and liquor store as a new phase of the single-use plastic ban is set to go into effect later this month.

Starting June 20, the federal government will begin prohibiting the manufacture and import for sale of plastic ring carriers that are used to hold and carry beverage containers together. A full ban on sales will be enforced next year.

The upcoming prohibition of ring carriers is the second phase of Canada’s single-use plastic ban that kickstarted in December 2022 as the country targets zero plastic waste by 2030.

Some provinces, such as Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, have already had plastic bag bans in place for the last few years.

A growing number of grocery stores and restaurants in Canada have already stopped offering single-use plastic shopping bags, cutlery and take-out containers. As well, some drink companies have already swapped in cardboard versions of plastic ring carriers.

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Loblaw, one of Canada’s largest retailers, has been gradually phasing out single-use plastics province-by-province by encouraging customers to bring their own bags and offering reusable alternatives available at checkout lanes.

So far, the switch has been rolled out in several of its franchise grocery stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

“The impact of plastic packaging waste has been a growing concern for our business and our customers,” said Sandra Kesseler, vice president of ESG integration and reporting at Loblaw Companies Limited.

Click to play video: 'Canada’s single-use plastic ban takes effect'
Canada’s single-use plastic ban takes effect

In addition to eliminating plastic bags, Loblaw is also assessing the recyclability of more than 10,000 control brand and in-store packaging products, she said.

“We are well on our way to achieving our target of making all control brand and in-store plastic packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and have already reached 35 per cent compliance as of the end of 2022.”

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Sobeys was the first national grocery chain to remove plastic checkout bags from its stores even before Ottawa announced its ban last year.

“Eliminating 800 million single-use plastic grocery checkout bags annually from our national store network in 2021 was a major step forward for our business and the environment,” said Sarah Dawson, public affairs lead for Sobeys.

Last summer, the company launched a plastic waste challenge to find a sustainable alternative to in-store plastic packaging.

For its Voilà online grocery delivery service, it has removed plastic bags from operations in Quebec and is also transitioning to paper shortly in Ontario.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government fighting feds on single-use plastics'
Alberta government fighting feds on single-use plastics

Many restaurants in Canada are also going green, but the switch has not come without its challenges as businesses look for sustainable and affordable alternatives.

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“We have some very strong goals for moving to a circular economy and we don’t have the infrastructure in place right now and we don’t have all of the materials available on a regular, affordable way,” said Tracy Macgregor, vice president, Ontario, for Restaurants Canada.

From swapping in corn and paper materials to even using Twizzlers as a straw for sweet drinks, the food service sector is looking for creative ways to protect the environment but needs more clarity and standard regulation to make the transition, she said.

“I think the biggest challenge for operators across the country is that now they have to wear this waste management hat.”

On top of the federal ban, provincial regulations, such as container and bag fees and the blue box for recycling are only adding to the financial strain on the restaurant industry that is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, Macgregor added.

Click to play video: 'Refilleries: Feel good filling up'
Refilleries: Feel good filling up

Starting in December, Canada will ban the sale of plastic checkout bags, cutlery, food service ware, stir sticks and straws with some exceptions.

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Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) says it will work with organizations to ensure that the appropriate information is available to affected parties and is distributing guidance materials.

“As ECCC approaches the implementation of the prohibition of sale in December 2023, awareness-raising activities are being directed toward a wider audience, including restaurants, retailers, and Canadians,” said Nicole Allen, a spokesperson for the federal agency.

Between 2023 and 2032, the agency is anticipating that the measures will cut plastic pollution by around 22,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to at least one million garbage bags full of litter.

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