Nova Scotia

Atlantic Superstore stops charging for bags

Atlantic Superstore is backing away from its policy of charging customers a nickel for every plastic bag they use to pack their groceries.

Atlantic Superstore is backing away from its policy of charging customers a nickel for every plastic bag they use to pack their groceries.

The grocery stores, owned by national grocery retailer Loblaw Cos. Ltd., launched their plastic bag reduction program last spring. But in December, they decided to give customers a holiday, promising to pay the cost of the plastic bag until Dec. 31.

The holidays are over, but the bags are still free and it's a gift some customers are happy to accept.

"It can be a hassle because you might run out the door and forget them, and I mean, five cents a bag — this company is rich and they're getting a percentage of it," Shirley Wilson said.

 Karen Anthony agrees.

"I know we should do it and I do have the bags, I've bought a million. But when you forget them, it bothers me to have to pay the five cents," she said.

Some customers say the policy sent them to Sobeys where plastic bags are always free.

But Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre said customers pay one way or another.

"They're not free. There's a cost to the environment and there's also a cost to us in the end because as taxpayers we have to pay for the disposal or even the recycling of these bags," he said.

Part of the Superstore's explanation for stopping the five-cent charge falls back on economics.

In an emailed statement, the company said it "understands that many of our customers in the Atlantic Region are a little stretched these days and as a thank-you to our customers for their support we have been covering the five-cent cost of plastic bags."

Pete's Frootique, an upscale market owned by greengrocer Pete Luckett, was the first in Halifax to start charging for plastic bags. But customers don't seem to mind the fee.

"I think it's great, it makes people bring their own bags which is good," Blake Morgan said.

 Dave MacCormick said he doesn't think it matters.

"If you want to pay the convenience fee you do. If you don't, bring your own," he said.

Butler said he'd like to see retailers take a stronger lead.

" I really hope that the large retailers — Sobeys and Loblaws —  would get together and come up with a common policy so they're not competing with each other and they're all charging five cents a bag," he said.

If not, he said, it could be up to someone else to step in.

"Maybe the government is going to have to step in and charge a five-cent fee on plastic bags which would then go towards paying down the debt and go towards social services," Butler said.