Plastic bags going out of style

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With the environment becoming more and more in the forefront of people’s minds, many more people are looking at ways to become more eco-conscious in their everyday lives.

Single-use plastic bags, like the ones found in grocery stores and other retailers, are difficult to recycle, uses raw materials to make and are more often found in landfills.  According to the federal government, Canadians discard three million tonnes of plastic waste each year. As a result, many environmental groups have urged businesses and municipalities to either reduce their plastic bag usage or to ban plastic bags altogether.

Rockwood Environmental Action Community Taskforce Inc., a volunteer environmental organization based in Stonewall, is asking local residents to do their part by participating in the Reduce Plastic Bag Challenge throughout February.

“We wanted to start the New Year off on the right foot, (to) get people thinking about the ways they can help reduce the amount of waste that we are producing as a society,” Heather McDermid of REACT Inc. wrote in an email to The Stonewall Argus and
Teulon Times.

She hopes that the challenge can start new habits as reusable bags have become more available for purchase in recent years. REACT Inc. also gives out free reusable bags at its events. However, McDermid believes that while reducing is a good step, eliminating plastic bag use would be the best one.

“The best recycling is not as good as reusing, reusing is not as good as reducing and reducing is not as good as eliminating,” she wrote.

Stonewall Family Foods has a bin where people can dispose of plastic bags including cereal, bread and ‘ziploc’ bags. REACT Inc. has been in discussions with both Family Foods and Red River Co-op Food Store to transition out of plastic bags, as well as the Town of Stonewall to implement legislation. The federal government announced last June it plans to ban single-use plastics by next year.

Sobeys announced last July it would remove all plastic bags at its stores, including the location in Gimli and at Safeway in Selkirk, by the end of January. Doriane Johnson, the owner of the Gimli Sobeys, is in support of the plastic bag ban at its location and she told The Argus and Times that customers have adjusted well.

“The response has been mostly positive. We have a lot of customers who douse reusable bags on a regular basis even before Jan. 31,” Johnson said. “ It’s just kind of getting customers who weren’t doing it now on board and we’ve tried to provide a lot of options for our customers.” Some of those options include paper bags, tote bags and cardboard boxes.

Harry Oppeneer, store manager for Selkirk Safeway, told The Argus and Times its location is still using plastic bags, but they will be removed sometime later this year.