1 year after NLC's plastic bag ban, the reaction has been positive — with 1 exception
New paper bags are too small for some bottles, but NLC doesn't plan to fix the problem
In the year since the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation banned plastic bags, the feedback has been positive.
The corporation has received fewer than a dozen emails and comments in writing after it removed plastic bags from all its stores Nov. 1, 2018.
CBC obtained copies of the replies through an access-to-information request. The names of the people were all redacted.
Several people wrote in to say they appreciated the move to use less plastic.
"There might be some pushback, but the vast majority of people appreciate your commitment to our environment," one person emailed to NLC.
As Newfoundland and Labrador gets ready to ban plastic bags provincewide on July 1, NLC was a test of how the move may be received by shoppers who get used to bringing their own bags or using paper instead.
"We've only had a couple of real complaints/concerns," said Wally Dicks, NLC's chief operating officer.
"We do 4.5 million transactions a year. We sell 50 million actual units a year and we've seen less than 10 complaints."
The stores offer small paper bags, designed to go around a single wine bottle. They also offer boxes that are usually designed to hold a dozen bottles. Customers can also buy a reusable bag for 99 cents, about what it costs NLC.
They've proven to be popular with customers; 133,000 reusable bags were sold in the first year.
Paper bags not big enough
Most of the complaints have been that the small paper bags don't fit all products.
"I was forced to walk out of the store with a bottle in my hand, do you realize the danger you are putting me in?" one person complained via email.
"One wrong person (sees) this and I could be attacked. I won't shop for alcohol again."
Other provinces like Ontario have larger bags, designed to carry a few bottles, but the NLC has no plans to do that.
"Most of our products actually fit within that one bottle paper bag. There's a very small percentage of our products that don't fit in that bag, so as of now anyway we've made that decision not to go with bigger bags," said Dicks.
NLC used to use 4.9 million bags a year. Eliminating them saved the corporation $130,000 last year.
That's less than the Crown corporation expected before the ban, as it used to spend $180,000 a year on plastic bags. Dicks blames that on the increased use of paper bags.
That extra money is handed over to the province as part of the dividend it pays.