The government of Ontario is announcing a voluntary program to reduce by 50 per cent the number of shopping bags used by consumers.
Environment Minister Laurel Broten is announcing a partnership with the Recycling Council of Ontario, plus grocery and retail associations, to devise a system of consumer incentives to meet the target.
Incentives for customers who use cloth or canvas bags could include store “points” redeemable for products, air miles or cash.
Other elements of the program will be announced in future months. These may include training training for store clerks to double bag less often, put more items in each bag and stop bagging large or single items.
The system may include per-bag fees.
Currently, Ontarians use seven million plastic bags each day, or about four bags per person every week.
Annual annual reports will measure success; if the voluntary system doesn’t lead to the desired result, the province can regulate tougher measures such as bag fees or bans.
Some grocery stores already offer customers cloth or canvas bags or reusable bins. A&P and Dominion, for example, sell a 99-cent reusable shopping bag that holds the equivalent of about three plastic bags of groceries, and give five air miles to customers with reusable bags.
The incentive program flows from a pilot project in Sault Ste. Marie.
In March, San Francisco became the first city in North America to ban plastic bags in grocery stores and large pharmacies. Retailers were given six months to a year to come up with alternatives such as cloth, paper or biodegradable bags.
In April, Leaf Rapids, a small town in northern Manitoba, became the first municipality in Canada to ban plastic shopping bags.