Alberta to cut plastic bag use by half

Alberta plans to cut the number of plastic bags used in the province by 50 per cent by 2013, the province's environment minister announced Wednesday.

Alberta's environment minister conjured up images of derelict plastic bags blowing in the wind and polluting water and soil as he announced a plan to cut the number of bags used in the province by 50 per cent by 2013.

That reduction is based on figures from 2008, when Alberta retailers handed out 900 million bags to consumers.

"Plastic bags and the waste from plastic bags is something the public has become concerned about," said Rob Renner. "Its more than an eyesore and a nuisance; plastic bags contribute to significant environmental problems."

The minister made the announcement at West Edmonton Mall, Alberta's best-known shrine to consumerism.

The plan has the backing of major retail organizations, which will promote alternatives to plastic shopping bags and pay the costs of implementing the program.

"Waste minimization is a shared responsibility between industry, government and consumers," said Peter Pilarski, the Alberta director of the Retail Council of Canada.

"Educating consumers and providing alternatives to plastic bags are key to meeting the aggressive targets we have set as an industry."

Within the retail sector, staff will be trained to put stickers or tape on large items instead of putting them in bags, offer consumers the choice of bringing their own bags, packing more purchases into bags or not using a bag at all.

Consumers will be encouraged to use reusable cotton bags, reuse plastic bags or carry their purchases in recycled cardboard boxes.

Some retailers will also offer incentives such as rebates or loyalty points to stop using plastic bags.