Calgarians going through a fast food drive-through lane Tuesday morning may have been caught off guard when they were asked if they’d like to purchase a bag for 15 cents.
“I figured, yeah, I won’t take a bag,” Robert Drutu told Global News. “So when they handed me my fries on a napkin, that was a little, uh, interesting.
“It’s going to take a lot of adjustment.”
The city’s Single-Use Items Bylaw came into effect on Tuesday, requiring businesses to provide cutlery and/or condiments by request only, providing shopping bags by request only, and charging a minimum fee for paper and reusable bags.
The city’s waste and recycling services department said the scale of the use of those sorts of items is immense.
“There are millions of single-use items used everyday and these are just convenience items. They’re disposable. They’re designed to be used once. And oftentimes these items are being passed on to us by default,” Sharon Howland with the City of Calgary’s waste and recycling department said.
“We want to reduce litter on our streets, in the river, in our parks and public spaces.”
In addition to reducing the amount of items that are likely to be discarded without actually going into garbage or recycling bins, Howland said the bylaw allows Calgarians to better choose what they take home in their takeout order.
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“That’s the point of the bylaw: to give Calgarians the choice. Do you actually want these things or did you bring your own bag? Or do you have utensils at home that are perfectly good and that’s where you’re taking your takeout meal anyway?” she said.
Eateries around the city have had a year to prepare for the bylaw.
“I don’t think it’s much of a learning curve,” Lori Warnick, manager at Rip’s Pub and Eatery, said. “You go to a grocery store, you have to bring your own bags. We already knew this was a thing, it’s been years now. So now you’ve just got to do it when you pick up your food.”
Warnick did say there could be some extra steps for her staff when they pre-bag orders that await pickup. And she said it could affect the temperature of the takeout.
“That’s another downside,” she said. “Usually you bag it, it keeps heat in. Now it’ll be sitting open until it gets picked up or delivered.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the intent of the bylaw is to reduce waste citywide.
“If we can reduce waste, we are absolutely doing the right thing for our city and for our planet,” she told reporters Tuesday.
The fees for the bags will remain with the businesses, which Gondek said was because the businesses are providing the services.
“We didn’t want to put a burden on the businesses that are offering cloth bags or paper bags. They do have to recover those costs,” she said.
But Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean called the bylaw “ridiculous.”
“It’s going to make life more unaffordable and more inconvenient, I think is what I said in one of my social media posts,” McLean said. “Social engineering – I’m not a big fan of that.”
Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp expected there to be some “lessons” to come out of the bylaw.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to revisit the bylaw if it’s not working, and start learning from other cities and experiencing the issues that these bylaws have presented in their municipalities,” Sharp said.
Howland said the city will be studying the effects of the bylaw by looking at the composition of the city’s waste and by talking with businesses to understand how the implementation of the bylaw affects them.
In a year’s time, the bag fees will increase to 25 cents for a paper bag and $2 for a reusable bag.
“That’s about progressively increasing, because of course, we do want to continue to incentivize people just to remember those reusable bags. That’s what it’s all about: skip the bag when you can and bring your reusable bag from home,” Howland said.
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