October 25, 2020

Using reusable cloth or tote bags to carry your groceries home has been a trend in the past, but Sobeys has now made it mandatory.

They are the first major grocery chain in Canada to get rid of the white, crinkly, un-environmentally friendly plastic bags and make it compulsory for people to bring or buy reusable ones. Sobeys announced their plan of ditching the single use bags back in July of 2019 and it officially came into effect on Jan. 31, 2020.

“We’ve had no negative feedback at all, it’s all been positive. And we were shocked because we were prepared for the odd one that barks about it, but not at all,” said Kitchener Sobeys store manager Rob Kerr. 

It has just been over a week now with no single use bags, and customers can now purchase 10 cent paper bags in place of the plastic for anyone in a pinch. Sobeys will also continue selling their 99 cent reusable ones, as well as a new 25 cent smaller reusable bag.

“Funny enough we are going through a lot of paper bags, which I’m shocked at,” said Kerr. 

All Sobeys stores across Canada were active in the removal of the single use bags. Safeway, IGA, Foodland, Farm Boy, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods and Lawtons Drug are also stores within the Sobeys chain.

Kerr said two of the seven stores under the chain are on board, “Sobeys and Safeway right now, and then if they find that the role is good, reception is positive, they’re actually looking at rolling it out to the rest of the banners.”

Despite positive feedback coming from customers in the store according to Kerr, several folks on twitter have raised concerns over single use bags for produce, and plastic packaging on products from other grocery suppliers. 

“They are working on it, but that’s going to be a lot harder. Especially when it comes to overwrap coming from suppliers, they’ve got to work with them. One of the cucumber suppliers has actually gone to a biodegradable tray, but the other one hasn’t,” said Kerr.

“It’s probably going to be a lot longer process. Everybody thinks we did this overnight; this process has probably been going on for nine months.”

According to the Canadian government, the country uses up to 15 billion plastic bags each year. Today, the bottom of the Sobeys receipt now prints a message reading, “goodbye to 225 million plastic bags.” 

A sticker posted on the Sobeys door reminding people to bring their reusable bags taken Feb. 6, 2020 (Kirsten Kitto/ Spoke news)

For anyone that doesn’t know what to do with their accumulation of single use bags, Sobeys stores in Kitchener are now “pilot stores” for people to bring their old bags back and Sobeys will take care of the rest.

“We’re going to have bins here, that people can actually bring single use plastic bags back to, so that we can take them and recycle them,” Kerr said. 

He also touched on recycling projects that Sobeys across the country has launched.

“The Sobeys out East, they used 88,000 plastic bags to make reusable picnic tables and benches that run along the waterfront in Halifax,” Kerr explained. 

“They are really trying to get as close to a zero-carbon footprint left by the company.”

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