The Bring Your Own Bag Project: Local Grocery Stores

After years of vaguely trying to reduce my consumption of plastic grocery bags without much success, this summer I have decided to go cold turkey. No more plastic grocery bags. The turning point for me was reading that plastic bags kill marine, lacustrine (lake), and riverine wildlife. Turtles in particular mistake bags for food, eat them, and die. There’s a particularly heart-breaking photo of a turtle eating a plastic bag on the Urban Rideau Conservationists’ Blog (scroll down and look in the right column).

It seems that I am not the only one getting serious about getting rid of plastic grocery bags these days. In March of 2007, San Francisco became the first city in North America to ban them. A week later in April, Leaf Rapids Manitoba became the first Canadian town to follow suit, and later that month Modbury, a town in Cornwall, became the first in the EU. And that’s just a sampling of international efforts (for more news bites on the subject go to

Although the City of Ottawa has not chosen to ban plastic shopping bags, they have partnered with local Loeb grocery stores to recycle bags. Consumers can take clean plastic shopping bags of any denomination to any Loeb store in the city. According to EPIC, the environmental council of the Canadian Plastics Industry Assocation, the bags are returned to an American firm, Hilex, where they are broken down and made into new plastic bags. Part of the proceeds Loeb and the City get from recycling these bags goes to the United Way.

Loblaws has been a longtime promoter of reusable carriers. Their purple bins (now sometimes green) have been around for years. We have a couple of different models and found them very useful when we had a car. Depending where the holes are located, some of the models can be strapped or bungied to a bike rack. However, they are a little awkward to carry when walking to the store. Recently Loblaws has introduced reusuable bags, which can be purchased for 99 cents. Their bags are attractive, durable, made from 85% post-consumer recycled materials, and reasonably priced. Loblaws anticipates the bags will last for 50 shopping trips (a year of once a week shopping). When they wear out they can be returned to Loblaws where they will be recycled back into another batch of bags. Loblaws anticipates each reusable bag will replace 100 plastic grocery bags. If you have a PC Financial bank card or Mastercard, you can receive 50 points for each reusable bag or bin (of any make) used at the checkout.

Health foods grocer, The Wheat Berry, has recently instituted a comprehensive bag policy. For years they have accepted used plastic bags from customers and offered them for re-use (for other places that will accept used plastic bags, see the City of Ottawa’s Take it Back Pages). This previously used plastic bags are free. However, they now offer customers new paper bags and new biodegradable plastic bags at 5 cents a piece. Canvas totes are also available for purchase.

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