Wal-Mart Canada initiative likely to affect film supplies

A 25-cent reusable bag option could halve the number of plastic film bags used at the retailer.

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Wal-Mart Canada has announced the expansion of a plastic-bag-reduction initiative that will include the introduction of a 5-cent plastic bag fee on all single-use plastic bags. The initiative began in British Columbia Feb. 9, 2016, and will expand to Wal-Mart stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec in May 2016. Dates for Atlantic Canada will be announced in the coming months, says the Mississauga, Ontario-based retailer.

The company says it has established 12 waste diversion programs for products ranging from cardboard to paint and has increased its waste diversion rate to 80 percent in 2015. Since launching the initiative in British Columbia, 19 million fewer single-use bags were distributed compared with the same three-month period in 2015, a reduction of 76 percent, or 152,000 kilograms (335,000 pounds) of plastic.

“While we’re making strides, we recognize the critical role our customers, suppliers and our partners play in reducing waste,” says Lee Tappenden, chief operations officer at Wal-Mart Canada. “As part of our mission to reduce plastic film waste to create a greener, cleaner Canada, we are asking customers to move away from single-use plastic shopping bags and toward reusable bags.”

Wal-Mart Canada customers will be provided with the option to purchase reusable, discounted bags for 25 cents or single-use plastic bags for 5 cents. Wal-Mart says it also has improved its 5-cent single-use bag to be 25 percent bigger and 25 percent thicker, reducing the need to double-bag heavier items and lowering the total number of bags used.

Charging a nominal fee for plastic bags has proven to be an effective way to reduce the use of plastic bags, Wal-Mart says it has found. Wal-Mart stores in Japan and the United Kingdom have reduced distribution of single-use bags by approximately 50 percent, and in Canada similar programs are reporting comparable reduction rates, according to the company.

Wal-Mart Canada also says it is “creating more efficient in-store recycling and collection programs” and is allocating part of the plastic bag fees to support plastic film recycling initiatives.

Wal-Mart Canada operates more than 400 stores in that nation.