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County environmentalists cheer Sobeys for removing plastic bags

A large group gathered at Sobeys Saturday morning was not protesting, but was cheering the grocery chain’s move to eliminate single-use plastic grocery bags.

Members of Plastic Free PEC joined those from the County Sustainability Group and Council of Canadians Quinte to publicly thank Picton Sobeys for its effort.

“Sobey’s is the first to eliminate these plastic bags and no doubt the other major grocers will follow,” said Don Ross, of the County Sustainability Group. “It won’t be long now. We’re really pleased to see this moving forward, as other countries have done.”

Sobeys Inc announced the change will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation at its 255 locations across Canada each year. The move is its first step toward eliminating unnecessary plastic from grocery stores. The introduction of paper bags, new carry bags and totes will also follow at the company’s Safeway, FreshCo, IGA, Foodland and its other outlets.

Picton Sobeys franchise owner Jamie Yeo that while customers have been encouraged to buy reusable bags for years, some still don’t use them.

Picton Sobeys franchise owner Jamie Yeo that while customers have been encouraged to buy reusable bags for years, some still don’t use them.

“Now that we’ve gotten rid of the plastic we had to give them another option because a lot of people don’t have reusable bags yet. So we have the paper bag which is only temporary – we don’t know if it’s going to be for six months, or a year. It’s not the solution but it’s going to help us wean people off of the plastic.”

The paper bags will be sold for 10 cents and a portion will be donated back to plant trees. A smaller reuseable bag that Yeo notes is good for 14 hand-washes will be sold for 25 cents.

“So far the response has been great,” said Yeo. “We also have the collapsible tote for $5.99 which helps keep things from rolling around in the trunk.”

“Good for Sobeys,” members of the crowd cheered before mingling with each other and customers coming to the store.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a nationwide ban in 2021 on harmful single-use plastics – which is expected to include items such as plastic grocery bags, straws and take-out containers.

A government reported concluded last week there is more than enough evidence proving plastic pollution is harmful. The ban would fall under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and thus required a scientific assessment first.

The report states that in 2016, some 29,000 tonnes (about one per cent) of plastic garbage ended up as litter on land and in water throughout the nation. The assessment confirmed wildlife worldwide are injured or die when they mistake plastic for food, or become entangled.

The Draft Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution states Canadians throw away more than three million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Just nine per cent is recycled, while the remainder ends up in landfill, waste-to-energy facilities, or the environment.

It notes the Canadian Shoreline Cleanup initiative, in 2018, removed more than 116,000 kilograms of litter from shorelines through ‘The Great Canadian Cleanup’ program which continued last year and included a visit to Wellington Beach.

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association has stated the plastic shopping bags and some other single-use plastics are a better environmental choice. It states better management of the plastic at end of life is preferable to a ban.

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