Only nine percent of plastics produced in Canada are recycled; the vast majority of it accumulates in landfills and leeches into the environment
Plastic shopping bags used to carry groceries.PHOTO BY SUNSTOCK /iStock / Getty Images
The Metro grocery chain has become the latest Canadian food retailer to eliminate single-use plastic bags from its stores.
Metro, and its Food Basics stores, started the process on Sept. 19 in Ontario and Quebec.
Metro says the bags, which can take up to 1,000 years to break down, will disappear from all its stores by the end of the year. The grocer said the move will take 330 million plastic bags out of circulation each year.
Sobeys became the first Canadian grocery chain to stop selling single-use plastic bags on Jan. 31, 2020 at its more than 250 stores. Farm Boy –owned by Sobeys — banished plastic grocery bags across all stores in June 2021.
Walmart Canada eliminated the bags from all stores this April, saying it would prevent the annual use of nearly 700 million of them.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. has said it will ditch them from about 2,500 stores (including Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and Fortinos) by the end of the first quarter of 2023. Loblaw CEO Robert Sawyer said in a press release this summer that the organization’s “efforts to reduce the number of single-use plastic shopping bags leaving our stores has led to 13.8 billion fewer bags potentially going into landfill.”
Longo’s intends to scrap plastic bags by Nov. 7.
Only 9% of plastics produced in Canada are recycled; the vast majority of discarded plastic products end up in landfills, according to plasticactioncentre.ca. About 2.8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in Canadian landfills every year – equivalent to the weight of 24 CN towers.
The federal government said in 2019 Canadians use more than 15 billion plastic bags every year.
The history of charging for, or eliminating single-use plastic bags in Toronto, started in January 2009 when Loblaws became the first to institute a fee of five cents a bag. Other chains followed suit.
The City of Toronto was the first major Canadian city to decree that retailers had to charge a nickel for a plastic bag.
Some environmental groups claimed the fee wasn’t high enough to deter customers (Ireland, for example, charged 25 cents per at the time), while others — like then Toronto mayor Rob Ford — argued the fee should be repealed.
In 2012, Toronto City Council changed its bylaw, voting to leave it up to retailers to determine whether they charged the fee.