Nova Scotia

Sobeys removing plastic bags from its stores on Friday

That Sobeys bag overflowing with other Sobeys bags in your pantry will stop growing tomorrow. That's because the company is removing plastic bags from its stores on Jan. 31.

Sobeys is the first national grocery chain to eliminate plastic bags

Only Sobeys-named stores will be eliminating the plastic bags Friday. Their banner stores will still have plastic bags available, at least for now. (Ken Linton/CBC)

That Sobeys bag overflowing with other Sobeys bags in your pantry will stop growing tomorrow.

That's because the company is removing plastic bags from its stores on Jan. 31.

"There was a mourning period of people from July when we made the announcement," said Violet MacLeod, a spokesperson for Sobeys Inc.

"We did hear a lot of nostalgia, a lot of, 'What will I put in my boots?' ... but we've had six months go by and people are accepting the change."

In Atlantic Canada, the term Sobeys bag has become synonymous with plastic bags, and was even added to The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles in 2016.

In July 2019, Sobeys announced it would eliminate plastic grocery bags from their 255 locations, making it the first national grocery chain to do so. The change will remove 225 million plastic bags from circulation a year.

The federal government says Canadians use up to 15 billion plastic bags a year. (The Canadian Press)

"It's important for us to step up and listen to what Canadians have been asking for and work to reduce that avoidable plastic and this plastic bag elimination is just a first step on that journey," said MacLeod.

According to the Canadian government, the country uses up to 15 billion plastic bags each year.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a nationwide ban on harmful single-use plastics, like plastic bags, straws and cutlery, that would be implemented by 2021.

Prince Edward Island was the first province to ban plastic bags and Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have followed suit, planning to ban single-use plastic bags by the end of this year. Several cities across the country have enacted their own municipal bans — Vancouver's ban on plastic bags is slated to take effect next year, while the city of Prince Albert, Sask., approved their own ban just this week, starting Aug. 1.

Sobeys is encouraging customers to rely on reusable bags because they are the most sustainable option. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Like many other trends, paper bags will make a comeback on Friday, but MacLeod said reusable bags are the most sustainable option and hopes that's what people will use.

MacLeod said eliminating plastic bags is just a first step for the company. Customers in Quebec are being encouraged to bring reusable containers for deli lunch items or bulk fruits and nuts.

Only Sobeys-named stores will be eliminating the plastic bags tomorrow. Most of their stores that operate under other retail banners will still have plastic bags available.

MacLeod said the stores will eventually make the change, but a date hasn't been set yet.

She said Sobeys has been working to reduce its stock of plastic bags over the past six months, but any remaining bags will be returned to the supplier where they will either be reused elsewhere or recycled.

What other retailers are doing

In 2016, Walmart started charging customers five cents per plastic bag in an effort to reduce plastic. In a statement, the company said that has resulted in 50 per cent fewer plastic bags being used since 2016, and that will reduce another 50 per cent by 2025.

Loblaws, the parent company of Atlantic Superstore, said in a statement it's working toward eliminating plastic in stores by reducing plastic produce packaging. The statement did not say if the company is planning to eliminate plastic bags from circulation.

Some of its individual stores have removed plastic bags entirely. The Atlantic Superstore location on Quinpool Road in Halifax, for example, removed plastic bags in 2008.

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