On September 12, more than 50 merchants and organizations in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, will begin doing their part to reduce plastic bag waste by participating in a six month pilot project aimed at promoting reusable shopping bags. The project, lead by the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) and funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, is implemented through a partnership with the City of Sault Ste. Marie and its local retailers.
Dubbed The Shopper Loyalty Program, the program’s objective is to reduce the number of plastic bags distributed in stores by encouraging shoppers to invest in and continue the use of, reusable bags. All participating retailers will be offering customers a reusable bag either for purchase or for free. What is special about the program is that the stores will also offer special incentives and rewards to encourage customers to remember to bring the bags back with them to the store.
The pilot project is part of a larger initiative that was lead and launched by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in April 2007. Government convened a task force made up of industry organizations and the RCO under a voluntary agreement to reduce the number of plastic bags distributed to shoppers by 50 per cent by 2012. Through statistics gathered by this task force, it is estimated that more than four billion plastic bags are distributed to Ontarians every year.
The pilot project will run from September 2008 to February 2009. Performance of the test pilot program will be measured in a number of ways. Results will include the number of reusable bags sold, the reduction in the distribution of single use plastic shopping bags and the effectiveness of incentives to remind shoppers to bring their reusable bags back to the store for reuse. Results will be tallied in a final report which will be posted by the RCO in the spring of 2009.
Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director
Recycling Council of Ontario