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May 18, 2021

How soon will plastic bag fees become the norm?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Once upon a time, your local university’s health clinic wasn’t the only place you could get your hands on free plastic.

But that was then, and now – in the midst of another major grocery chain announcing it will start taxing the use of its single-use shopping bags – you might not be able to find the material for free any longer.

Grocery giant Metro, which operates about 600 stores in Ontario and Quebec, has said it will charge five cents per bag at all checkouts starting June 1.

By doing so, they will join the ranks of Loblaws and Sobeys (even though Sobeys only levies the fee in Ontario) as major retailers to adopt the tax.

Yet while we might have predicted other grocery stores would jump on the plastic charge bandwagon, the date of Metro’s free bag ban is significant for a whole other reason.

June 1 is the same day the City of Toronto will begin to force stores, not just supermarkets, to charge for single-use plastic bags.

And while it’s, admittedly, only one city, the Star says environmentalists think the rest of Canada will soon follow suit.

“I think after the city of Toronto’s program is implemented, you’ll see it across the board,” the Recycling Council of Ontario’s executive director tells the newspaper.

“Especially for the national chains, they don’t tend to launch programs … by jurisdiction, they tend to do it nationally. It’s easier for them.”

Of course, there’s naturally a bit of resistance to the movement away from plastic bags. While the left-leaning Toronto was sure to act accordingly, it turns out Calgarians, for example, don’t want to be pushed around on the issue.

A “wide-ranging city report” shown in the Calgary Herald says that charging a tax on plastic shopping bags (or even banning them altogether) would be wildly unpopular, going so far as to suggest the change would be “legally hard to justify.”

Well, it turns out that report only registered feedback from a mere 300 Calgarians, so it’s tough to put a lot of weight into its findings. Still, you have to admire the city’s will.

While cutting back on the waste of landfill-clogging bags is a no-brainer, maybe banning them altogether isn’t exactly the right course of action. People do, believe it or not, re-use these bags and, when it boils down to it, should probably have the choice as to which type of material they want to shove their $200 of groceries in every other week.

But, how long will that remain the case?



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...