Walmart plastic bag fee applauded by Island Waste Management, but some shoppers skeptical

Island Waste Management Corporation is applauding Walmart's move to start charging five cents for plastic bags, but some customers aren't convinced.

'The environmental ethic in the Maritimes has deep roots. We think Maritimers are ready'

Walmart will start charging five cents for a plastic bag in its Maritime stores on Oct. 17. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Island Waste Management Corporation is applauding Walmart's move to start charging five cents for plastic bags, but some customers aren't convinced.

Walmart will start charging five cents for a bag in its Maritimes stores on Oct. 17.

The company says the five-cent bags will be 25 per cent thicker and 25 per cent bigger than the thin disposable bags currently provided for free as part of a multi-year effort to eventually reduce all food and plastic waste at its stores to zero.

"We're asking customers to change their habits," said Alex Roberton, senior director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada. "The environmental ethic in the Maritimes has deep roots. We think Maritimers are ready."

For the next few months Walmart will also sell a sturdy re-usable tote bag for 25 cents.

'A good thing,' says Island Waste Management

Island Waste Management predicts that will lead to a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in plastic bag waste.

"Anytime that any organization can implement programs to encourage people to re-use and not use new materials, I think is a good thing," said Gerry Moore, CEO of Island Waste Management Corporation.

Island Waste Management expects to see a significant reduction in plastic bag waste after the fee is implemented. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Some shoppers skeptical, others supportive

But in the Walmart parking lot on Wednesday, shoppers offered a mixed bag of opinions.

"I don't like it and I'll probably go somewhere else," said John Ferguson.

"Little bit of an overkill, wouldn't you think?" said Frank Clark. "I don't think they need to charge for bags."

"I always carry a cloth bag in my car," said Frank Duguay:  "It's a matter of remembering to take it in."

Walmart will be selling re-usable bags for 25 cents for the next few months. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"We've been paying for our plastic bags for a long time now," said Dawn Klok, a tourist from Australia. "I think you can't do anything better because the ocean's just full of plastic."

Recycling bags costly

One of Walmart's competitors on P.E.I., Atlantic Superstores, started charging for plastic bags a few years ago, but discontinued the practice.

Island Waste Management Corporation says waste plastic was significantly reduced while the fee was being charged.

"It reduced plastic bag waste we were shipped off Island by about 15 to 20 tractor trailer loads a year," said Moore.

Moore said recycling of plastic bags is costly, and corporation often has to store the bags in heavy bailed bundles for extended periods while seeking overseas buyers.