PEI

Why 2 P.E.I. businesses are looking forward to the plastic bag ban

At least two P.E.I. businesses are looking forward to the upcoming ban on plastic checkout bags, including the Island Waste Management Corporation which currently collects about 30 million single-use plastic bags annually.
Gerry Moore demonstrates how Islanders can now put out their paper bags for recycling. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

At least two P.E.I. businesses are looking forward to the upcoming ban on plastic checkout bags. 

New rules take effect on July 1, as Prince Edward Island becomes the first province in Canada to ban single-use bags, under the Plastic Bag Reduction Act.

Moore says the 15 cent charge for paper bags will be a deterrent and will encourage Islanders to bring their own bags. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Island Waste Management Corporation currently collects about 30 million single-use plastic bags annually.

It has been sending a tractor-trailer load of the bags off Island for recycling every month.

"We anticipate, obviously, a drastic change in the number of single-use plastic bags that we're going to receive — which is good news," said Gerry Moore, CEO of IWMC.

"Because, in the past, we've experienced some headaches in having those bags go into the recycling market so we're hoping to see a drastic change in the number of bags on an annual basis."

Over 100 tonnes of plastic built up on P.E.I. in 2017 after China said it would not accept as much from overseas. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Paper bags to be recycled

IWMC recently announced that it will now be recycling paper bags. 

"We're going to probably see a slight increase in the amount of paper bags that we receive and all the paper bags are going to be recycled," Moore said. 

"We're hoping that people will will start to use reusable bags."

Moore predicts the number of plastic bags collected will drop dramatically, but not right away.

"This will take some time, I mean it's not going to happen July 2nd," Moore said.

Moore predicts the number of single-use plastic checkout bags will eventually drop from 30 million to less than a million.

Moore predicts the number of single-use plastic checkout bags will eventually drop from 30 million to less than a million. (Nicole Williams/CBC )

Plastic backlog

IWMC struggled to deal with a backlog of plastics after China announced it would no longer accept foreign recyclables in the fall of 2017.

At one point, the corporation had a stockpile of more than 100 tonnes of plastic.

"A lot of times in the last number of years we've had to hold tractor trailer loads of baled, single-use plastic bags," Moore said. 

"Hopefully we're not going to have to do that again, so that's a good news story."

Moore says the contractor that does the collection will save some labour in picking out the plastic bags from the recyclable materials, but will still have to sort the paper bags. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Moore said the corporation does have sustainable markets for the paper bags and will be encouraging customers to place them with their corrugated cardboard or in blue bag number one for recycling.
 
He says they will then be baled and shipped with corrugated cardboard and used to make corrugated cardboard and or paper bags again.

Moore says it's too early to know what the ban on plastic checkout bags will mean to the corporation's bottom line.

Island Waste Management Corporation will now be accepting paper bags for recycling. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"The contractor that does the collection will save some labour in having to pick out the plastic bags from the recyclable materials," Moore said.

"But we also anticipate that there's going to be a little more labour in picking out the paper bags."

Moore says the 15 cent charge for paper bags will be a deterrent and will encourage Islanders to bring their own bags.

Moore predicts more and more Islanders will carry this kind of fold-up bag that they can can use when they're going into a store and didn't really expect to be shopping. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"But I think as time goes on people will get educated and keep those bags either in their car, or in their purse, or on their person," Moore said.

"That fold up-type bag that they can utilize when they're going into a store when they're really not expected to go there."

Business opportunity

The new ban on plastic checkout bags has turned into a business opportunity for the P.E.I. Bag Company in Bedeque.

The company started in 1935 making burlap bags for packaging potatoes.

Pranav Trivedi, the company's purchase manager, says the company is bringing in 65,000 of the polypropylene bags — which will come in a case of 100 with both themes and sell for a dollar apiece. (Ken Linton/CBC)

It now makes paper and poly bags for customers in agriculture, aquaculture and the sugar business across Canada and the U.S.

It no longer makes burlap bags, but is tapping into those roots with a new line of 26 reusable shopping bags, made of jute and cotton, as well as polypropylene bags featuring scenery from Prince Edward Island.

"We went on a designing spree," said Pranav Trivedi, the company's purchase manager.

"It took about six months for me to finalize each and every design, so it was quite time-consuming."

The company received help from the P.E.I. Environment Department, which provided the photographs and helped with the design work. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Trivedi said because of all the design work for 26 bags they won't be available in time for the July 1 implementation of the new rules.

The jute and cotton bags are going to arrive by the end of July and the reusable polypropylene bags by the end of September.

The company received help from the P.E.I. Environment Department, who provided the photographs and helped with the design work.

The jute and cotton bags are going to arrive by the end of July and the reusable polypropylene bags by the end of September. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Recycled content

The company is bringing in the bags from overseas, but made sure they chose ones that included recycled content. 

"As part of sourcing these bags, we ensure that all our bags have 50 percent recycled content because it aligns with the province's idea of reduce, reuse and recycle," Trivedi said.

The sales team at the P.E.I. Bag Company started thinking about creating an alternative to plastic checkout bags after the legislation passed. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Trivedi said the company is bringing in 65,000 of the polypropylene bags — which will come in a case of 100 — and sell for a dollar apiece.

They have also brought in 16,000 of the jute and cotton bags, which Trivedi expects will retail for between $5 and $12, depending on the bag.

Last year, the company sold approximately 15,000 jute bags. They've had inquiries from Alberta and Ontario, as well as France.

The P.E.I. Bag Company has created a new line of 26 reusable shopping bags, including ones made of jute and cotton. (Ken Linton/CBC)

They have also produced customized bags for Island businesses.

"It is a very good business opportunity, as we are focused more toward the industrial side of packaging, into the retail side of the business," Trivedi said.

"We are also working to expand our market share and I feel that these bags are definitely going to help us achieve that."

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About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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