The Single-Use Reduction Strategy passed at the January 17th Public Hearing Meeting of Council with a vote of 10-4. There has been a lot of reporting on this bylaw from various angles and I want to quickly speak to some of the concerns as I know there are more than a few in Ward 12 that share these concerns.
First of all the mandatory minimum fee for shopping bags is meant to level the playing field for ALL businesses that will need to come into compliance with the Federal Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations (Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations: Overview - Canada.ca). The full weight of The City bylaw specifically doesn’t come into full effect until after the Federal regulations do (January 16, 2024). The City is working to soften the landing of the Federal regulations while specifically strengthening single-use reduction strategies locally. The bylaw went through many rounds of engagement, and it has been responsive to the businesses/non-profits that stand to be the most impacted by it.
The purpose of the mandatory fee is to financially motivate our community to bring their reusable bags and bins on their grocery trip and think twice before asking for single-use foodware accessories (utensils, straws, stir sticks, etc). Few things change habits more effectively than financial incentives and the size of the mandatory fee is meant to bring this to mind not punish businesses and Calgarians that forget their reusable bags. The extra fee goes directly to the business (not The City) which will directly aid in making the regulatory transition.
We join Calgary Co-op in our desire to see their compostable bags find approval within the Federal regulatory framework as they are an innovative and well-loved option that both respects the environment and incentivizes organic waste diversion (composting/green bin). The City is not standing in the way of them gaining approval from the Federal Gov’t.
Other jurisdictions that have created local bylaws have ended up with some unintended consequences in the community like in Ottawa when Walmart didn’t adjust and filled online grocery pick-up orders with reusable bags leaving consumers with hundreds of reusable bags and footing the costs themselves. Calgary is aware of issues like this and will work to proactively ensure that as few of these unintended consequences crop up as possible.
What about costs? There is a communication campaign that will help raise awareness that costs $200K but the commentary on the extra burden to any compliance efforts, in my opinion, has been way overblown. The compliance strategy will be entirely based on members of the community reporting businesses that are not complying and that will lead to a conversation, not a fine. The only way this will cause a big drain on compliance/bylaw resources is if the larger business community decides not to comply.
If you have further feedback please don’t hesitate to reach out to the office by emailing [email protected] or calling 403-268-1698.
By the end of this year, the Federal Government regulations prohibiting the manufacture and import of plastic check-out bags, cutlery, stir sticks, food service ware and straws will come into effect, with the sale of these items banned by the end of 2023. Without a focus on reduction, however, single-use plastics are likely to be replaced with single-use items made from other materials, many of which are misdirected and contaminate our blue and green carts. It also doesn’t solve the issue that single-use items are, by definition, designed to be used once and thrown away.
With that in mind, The City of Calgary has developed a single-use items reduction strategy to reduce environmental impacts caused by the item’s life cycle - from raw material acquisition through manufacture, distribution, product use, and disposal. Waste & Recycling Services is committed to enabling Calgarians to waste less and conserve more resources. This strategy is an important tool to help Calgarians move towards zero waste through a focus on preventing and reducing waste and encouraging reuse.
The City has done extensive engagement on this topic dating back to 2018 and what they’ve heard is that Calgarians care about waste reduction. Many of you have already adopted reusable coffee cups, water bottles, and shopping bags into your daily routine.
Businesses are taking steps to reduce the consumption of single-use items by charging fees for bags and providing cutlery, napkins, and straws only upon request. However, when engaging local businesses, the City heard that due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the economic downturn that proceeded it, many Calgary businesses are struggling and are concerned about the increased costs of non-plastic alternatives, mitigating any sudden shocks and costs is essential. As is the importance of fairness and a level playing field; that is, all businesses should have to follow the same rules.
These considerations influenced Calgary’s approach, and the impact on local businesses was front of mind when constructing the City’s new proposed Single Use Items Reduction Strategy (CD2022-0985) Bylaw. The proposed bylaw directly supports both the 2021 Environment Strategy and the waste reduction Program Pathway outlined in the proposed 2022 Calgary Climate Strategy by proactively reducing the amount of waste that is created in the first place
The proposed bylaw includes a ban on single-use items, regardless of material, as well as a mandatory minimum fee on paper shopping bags and new reusable shopping bags. These fees will be retained by businesses to help offset the cost increase. The bylaw also proposes that single-use food ware accessories (utensils, straws, stir sticks, pre-packaged condiments and napkins) made of any material, must only be supplied upon customer request. Again, these fees are not a tax and not collected by the city, so retailers and restaurants can offset their costs.
Preventing and reducing waste from single-use items also reduces costs to businesses who purchase and dispose of these items and creates opportunities for innovation and new businesses. Calgarians use 240,000 single-use containers per night from take-out orders. Seeing a need to keep those containers from the landfill, Earthware, a Calgary based business, began supplying reusable take out containers to local businesses. You can now request Earthware containers from 50 local businesses to date, in store or by delivery app. These containers can be used upwards of 1000 times each. Last year, Earthware kept 10,000 containers out of the landfill by offering return depots at Community Associations and central community spaces. They are now partnering with Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC) to be able to charge a deposit on the containers and have them returned to the bottle depot. This new partnership puts them on their way to their goal of keeping 1,000,000 single use containers from the landfill by 2025.
I believe the goal of reducing our collective habit of using single-use items is an important one. Eliminating the use of unnecessary single-use items and replacing needed ones with reusable options is a worthy undertaking. The Single Use Items Reduction Strategy (CD2022-0985) Bylaw is a great step in the City of Calgary’s commitment to the Environment.
Key Considerations from Engagement
Mitigate costs to Calgary businesses and create a level playing field
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the economic downturn prior to the pandemic, many Calgary businesses are struggling and are concerned about the increased costs of non-plastic alternatives. Mitigating any sudden shocks and costs is critical. Businesses emphasized the importance of fairness and a level playing field; that is, all businesses should do and/or be required to follow the same rules. These two considerations have influenced Calgary’s approach.
Support businesses and citizens through the transition
The City is committed to supporting businesses and citizens through the transition to the new federal and municipal requirements. We will focus on increasing awareness and providing education and support to both businesses and citizens. For businesses this may include best practice guides (e.g. suggested alternatives), toolkits, printable signage, till toppers, social media kits and public education materials (e.g. fact cards, customer Q&As). Broad education and outreach aimed at all Calgarians will focus on explaining why preventing and reducing waste from single-use items is important, how the requirements will affect them, and ways they can reduce their reliance on single-use items. ISC: Unrestricted Page 6 of 18 CD2022-0985 Attachment 2
Minimize negative impacts on equity-seeking groups
The single-use items reduction strategy was informed by equity analysis (adapted from Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) created by the Government of Alberta) and considered a number of identity factors including disability, socioeconomic status, gender identity, and age. The City’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility and Social Wellbeing Advisory Committee provided guidance and input into the strategy.
Minimize the impact of single-use items on City operations
Some alternatives for the single-use items being banned by the Federal government could contaminate green and blue cart materials. For example, food serviceware (cups, containers, bowls and plates) made from compostable or biodegradable plastics cannot be broken down at the City of Calgary’s Composting Facility, and if incorrectly disposed of, wood cutlery and stir sticks could contaminate blue cart materials. Therefore, it will be important to communicate with businesses and their customers about The City’s preferred alternatives and what we are able to process at our compost and recycling facilities, as well as educate Calgarians about the proper disposal of these alternative materials.
Align with timing of the federal single-use plastic bans and harmonize regulations across jurisdictions
The Government of Canada published Regulations that will prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of single-use plastic checkout bags, cutlery, stir sticks, food serviceware made from foam and other problematic plastics, and straws (with exemptions to ensure accessibility). The prohibitions on manufacture and import for sale in Canada will come into force by the end of 2022, and prohibitions on sale will come into force at the end of 2023. To support businesses and citizens in the transition, it is important that Calgary’s strategy coincides with federal regulations.