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EPIC knocks Loblaws plastic bag charge

The Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association has criticized...


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January 19, 2009 by Canadian Plastics

The Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association has criticized Canadian grocery chain Loblaws for charging shoppers in its Toronto stores five cents for every plastic bag.

According to Loblaws, the charge – introduced last week – is part of a plan to reduce plastic bags. The company will begin charging for bags in the rest of the stores across Canada on April 22, Earth Day.

“With the Loblaws launch, the first shoe has dropped on the $44 million bag tax on consumers in Toronto which starts in June,” said Cathy Cirko, vice president, Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC). “It is very hard to see this fee as anything other than a revenue grab by retailers during a recession which only adds costs to consumers’ food bills.”

The bags cost about 1-cent and the Loblaws charge of 5-cents represents a 500 per cent profit, Cirko continued. “Retailers are turning a cost item into a highly profitable source of revenue at the expense of consumers. For Loblaws with its dominant share of the market, this is a major windfall profit of millions during a recession particularly since the retailer is rushing to introduce the fee in Toronto six months ahead of the city mandated deadline.”

There are a number of other unintended consequences that bag fee proponents such as Loblaws have not considered, EPIC warned in a press release. “One casualty could be local jobs. According to the plastics industry, 10,900 Ontarians are employed in the manufacture of plastic bags and film. With the kinds of reductions Loblaws anticipates, the province will continue to see jobs exported to Asia.”

EPIC also disputed the alleged harmful environmental impact of plastic bags. “Plastic shopping bags are not an environmental problem; they represent less than 1 per cent of landfill and 0.5 per cent of litter and are 100 per cent recyclable,” the organization said. “Bag fees have failed everywhere they have been tried leading to more plastic being consumed and in some markets the substitution of paper bags leading to more material going to landfill.”

“The bag fee has not been thought through and consumers will pay the price,” Cirko said. “We need to come together and rethink this thing so that we can find solutions that don’t penalize consumers and the environment.”