Island retailers permitted to waive paper bag fee during COVID-19 pandemic

Retailers on P.E.I. who are still open for business have been given the option of waiving the fee for paper bags during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some customers, staff concerned about condition of reusable personal bags

The P.E.I. government has allowed retailers to temporarily waive the paper bag fee imposed under the Plastic Bag Reduction Act. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Retailers on P.E.I. who are still open for business have been given the option to waive the fee for paper bags during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under P.E.I.'s Plastic Bag Reduction Act, retailers must charge a minimum 15 cents for each paper bag.

On Friday, the province said it had agreed to allow retailers to waive the fee at the request of the Retail Council of Canada, based on health and safety concerns of customers and front-line employees.

Because P.E.I. no longer allows single-use plastic bags, the options are limited mainly to reusable bags or paper bags.

But with COVID-19, there were "heightened insecurities" with the quality and condition of the reusable bags being brought into the stores, said Jim Cormier, Atlantic director for the Retail Council of Canada.

"The customers were taking that next step of, well, if I'm not comfortable using the reusable bag and there is no plastic option and paper is the only option, why is it that the government is making me pay to use that option?" he said.

Employees are also reminding customers to wash their reusable bags, Cormier said. 

Some may still charge

Some retailers may continue to charge for the paper bags.

"When you're going into stores in the near future you may see some retailers still choosing to charge that fee recognizing there is still an environmental footprint involved in producing a paper bag."

Darcie Lanthier of the Green Economy Network on P.E.I. said waiving the fee during the pandemic is a good idea.

"The novel coronavirus has a very short lifespan on paper bags," she said.

"They also stand up without tipping over and hold a lot of items."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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