Walmart Canada plans to stop handing out free plastic bags

Walmart Canada will begin charging customers for plastic bags in an attempt to curb the amount of plastic that often winds up in landfills.

Customers can pay 5 cents for plastic or 25 cents for a reusable bag starting Feb. 9

Walmart Canada says the introduction of a small fee in other countries has helped the company to reduce the number of plastic bags by more than half. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

Walmart Canada will begin to charge customers for plastic bags as part of its strategy for cutting the amount of plastic that often ends up in landfills.

Beginning on Feb. 9, customers will be charged five cents each for plastic bags, with reusable bags available for a discounted rate of 25 cents each.

The company — headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., which is just west of Toronto — said that the introduction of a small fee in other countries has helped Walmart to reduce the number of plastic bags by more than half.

Walmart says some of the proceeds from the new charge will go toward supporting recycling initiatives for grocery bags and other thin plastic objects.

The company said it's also going to improve in-store recycling and collection programs and work with suppliers to find ways of removing plastic from its packaging.

Walmart Canada has 397 stores and serves more than 1.2 million customers per day.

Retail analyst Doug Stephens said this is a "monumental branding decision" for Walmart.

"There is no question they are late to the table with this. It's been many years now that companies have been charging for bags or made the decision not to charge," the founder of Retail Prophet told CBC News.

He said observers, especially environmentalists, will be waiting to see whether the retail giant really ends up putting resources toward the environment, instead of its own bottom line.

"If Walmart does indeed want to contribute money back to reducing its environmental footprint and helping the environment then I suppose that's a good thing," Stephens said.

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