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Calgary bylaw aimed at reducing single-use items comes into effect

Calgary city council passed the bylaw last year as a way to limit single-use items that end up in landfills.  (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)
Calgary city council passed the bylaw last year as a way to limit single-use items that end up in landfills. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)

A new Calgary bylaw stipulating that all retail shops, grocers, restaurants, cafes and drive-thrus must charge for bags comes into effect Tuesday.

The bylaw also requires that businesses ask their customers if they want foodware accessories, like napkins, straws and cutlery, rather than automatically supplying them.

Last year, council passed the bylaw as a way to limit single-use items that end up in landfills. Under the bylaw, the city requires businesses charge a minimum of 15 cents for every single-use paper bag they give out, or a dollar for each reusable bag. Those fees will rise further in 2025.

The money collected will stay with the business.

Sharon Howland, leader of program management for the City of Calgary's waste and recycling services, said the bylaw is meant to reduce the use of all single-use materials, not just plastics.

"How many times have you received a takeout order and the bag is filled with a handful of ketchup packets, napkins, utensils that you don't actually need?" Howland said.

"Often these items are dumped straight into the garbage bin, unused."

According to city documents, each week, Calgarians toss out 3.5 million plastic shopping bags, 6.4 million plastic utensils, 2.4 million takeout containers and 2.4 million disposable cups.

Howland said the city has been doing sessions with business owners in recent months about the bylaw.

Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said most business owners don't want more rules to follow.

"It's extra regulation. We're sitting in an inflationary environment. There's other things people are worried about right now, and it's just one more thing to deal with," she said.

Cluck 'n’ Cleaver is located at 1511 – 14 St SW Calgary.
Cluck 'n’ Cleaver is located at 1511 – 14 St SW Calgary.

Cluck 'n’ Cleaver is a takeout restaurant in Calgary. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Francine Gomes, co-owner at Cluck N Cleaver, a Calgary takeout restaurant, said staff were already asking customers if they wanted cutlery, to reduce waste, but the bag fee will require a few operational adjustments.

Customers who aren't prepared with a bag will have to pay the extra fee. She said she's trained her staff to deal with a wide range of responses.

"I believe that the city sentiment for this is good. The intention is to kind of reduce waste. But I do think it'll take a little while for people to catch up," she said Tuesday on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Last summer, Banff and Edmonton both introduced similar changes in their municipalities.