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Walmart’s plastic bag ban leaves some customers saddled with mounds of reusable bags

When Walmart banned single-use plastic checkout bags in April, buyer Larry Grant applauded the transfer — till he discovered himself drowning in reusable luggage.

Every week, Grant orders Walmart groceries for pickup at a depot close to his house in Toronto. As a result of plastic bag ban, the retailer now packs his objects in reusable luggage — new ones for every order.

Grant estimates he has acquired about 300 over the previous six months.

“It is a bit loopy,” he mentioned, pointing to a big pile of blue Walmart luggage stuffed within the trunk of his automotive. “In a month, I might be accumulating anyplace from 40 to 50.”

Single-use plastic procuring luggage are on their manner out in Canada. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador have already launched bans, and on Tuesday, the federal authorities will start phasing them out nation-wide.

However the well-intentioned conflict on plastic luggage has had an unintended consequence: As a rising variety of retailers get rid of them, some customers are amassing piles of reusable bags — greater than they may ever reuse.

A man picks up his weekly grocery delivery from Walmart. His goods are packed in eight reusable bags.
Larry Grant picks up his weekly Walmart groceries at a depot close to his Toronto house. He says the retailer must discover a method to cease utilizing so many reusable luggage for supply. (David Hill/CBC)

CBC Information interviewed a number of Walmart grocery supply clients who mentioned that they are swimming in reusable luggage and that the retailer has merely changed one environmental downside with one other.

“Banning the plastic luggage was an amazing transfer, however it wasn’t thought by,” Grant mentioned. On this present day, the weekly groceries for his household of 4 have been delivered in eight reusable Walmart luggage. Two of the luggage every contained only one merchandise.

“I am actually pissed off,” he mentioned. “I simply hope they are going to take into consideration this failure … and give you an answer.

Why it’s essential to reuse your reusable bag

When Walmart announced its plastic bag ban, the U.S.-based firm mentioned it was a win for the surroundings. The baggage are problematic as a result of they’re typically troublesome and expensive to recycle. Consequently, most find yourself in landfills or as litter that may enter waterways and harm marine life that mistakenly eat them.

Reusable luggage are usually a greater various — in the event that they earn their preserve. A number of research have discovered the luggage have to be used a variety of occasions for them to have a much less dangerous affect on the surroundings than flimsy, single-use plastic luggage.

“Typically talking, a reusable bag requires extra power and carbon to make relative to a single-use plastic bag,” mentioned Cal Lakhan, a analysis scientist with the school of environmental and concrete change at York College in Toronto.

“It tends to be sturdy and have considerably larger high quality, however that larger high quality comes at a value.”

A man sits at his desk in his office.
York College analysis scientist Cal Lakhan says reusable luggage have to be used a number of occasions to ensure that them to have a much less dangerous affect on the surroundings than single-use plastic luggage. (Spencer Gallichan-Lowe/CBC)

A 2020 United Nations study estimated that to ensure that it to have much less affect on the surroundings than a single-use plastic bag, a cotton bag must be used 50 to 150 occasions, whereas a sturdy, non-woven polypropylene bag (such because the blue Walmart one) have to be used 10 to twenty occasions.

“Simply because one thing is reusable would not essentially make it good for the surroundings,” Lakhan mentioned. “Whereas I perceive and admire the hassle to attempt to decrease single-use plastics, we’ve got to be very prudent in how we select to take action.”

What is the resolution?

Udi and Natalie Sela of Maple, Ont., north of Toronto, just lately went by their stockpile of reusable Walmart luggage, making a sea of blue of their front room. The couple order groceries weekly from the retailer and estimate that, like Grant, they’ve acquired about 300 up to now.

In October, Udi Sela complained to Walmart concerning the reusable bag downside. He is nonetheless ready for a repair.

“It simply creates extra waste, which is what we’re making an attempt to keep away from within the first place,” he mentioned. “We will not return them, we will not do a lot with them. There are higher methods of doing this.”

A man and a woman stand in their living room piling up blue Walmart reusable bags.
The Selas take inventory of all of the resuable luggage they’ve amassed from Walmart’s grocery supply. Udi Sela says he complained to the retailer final month concerning the reusable bag downside. (Darek Zdzienicki/CBC)

In an e mail, Walmart Canada mentioned it is exploring methods to chop down on the variety of reusable luggage in circulation, comparable to taking a look at alternate options to reusable luggage for grocery supply.

“We’re persevering with to be taught and alter alongside our clients,” firm spokesperson Stephanie Fusco mentioned in an e mail.

She didn’t present knowledge on what number of clients use Walmart’s supply service however mentioned it is accessible in most elements of Canada.

Metro, which operates in Ontario and Quebec, informed CBC Information it has already discovered an answer. The grocery store, which has additionally banned plastic luggage, mentioned it makes use of no luggage for grocery supply. As an alternative, goods are delivered in a returnable cardboard field or plastic bin. Prospects selecting the bin choice should gather their items from it upon arrival.

WATCH | Walmart bans plastic luggage in Canada: 

Walmart eliminates plastic luggage in Canada

Plastic luggage will now not be accessible at Walmart shops throughout Canada, a transfer some specialists say is to get forward of Ottawa’s proposed ban on disposable plastics slated to take impact later this yr.

Loblaw Firms Ltd. — which operates such grocery shops as Loblaws, Zehrs, No Frills and Actual Canadian Superstore — plans to implement a national plastic bag ban early subsequent yr. The grocery store mentioned it is exploring sustainable choices for grocery supply, together with a program the place clients can return their reusable luggage.

Loblaw didn’t reply questions on its supply methodology for provinces which have already launched a plastic bag ban. 

Sobeys additionally didn’t supply particulars about its grocery supply system, however CBC Information discovered the information on its website. Though Sobeys has banned single-use plastic luggage on the checkout counter, in accordance with its web site, it nonetheless makes use of them for grocery supply in Ontario. If clients return the luggage, Sobeys says it should recycle them.

The retailer additionally affords grocery supply in elements of Quebec and says on its web site that it makes use of paper luggage for these deliveries and for curbside pickup throughout Canada.

Several environmental experts argue that paper luggage can truly be worse for the surroundings than single-use plastic luggage.

“Reducing down forest inventory, processing, pulping, forming it into precise paper, that manufacturing course of itself tends to be extra power and water intensive,” Lakhan mentioned.

Sobeys informed CBC Information that its paper luggage are compostable and made out of 70 per cent recycled paper. The corporate additionally mentioned it should quickly shift to utilizing paper luggage for grocery supply in Ontario.

What’s subsequent?

Extra retailers will probably be trying to find alternate options when, on Tuesday, the federal government bans the manufacture and import of several single-use plastics, together with checkout luggage. One yr later, it should outlaw their sale in Canada.

To make sure Canadians do not amass too many reusable luggage, Surroundings and Local weather Change Canada mentioned in an e mail that it’ll work with stakeholders to coach customers on the deserves of reusing them.

The division didn’t point out any measures centered on retailers.

A latest single-use plastic and paper ban in New Jersey led to numerous complaints that grocery supply clients have been amassing too many reusable luggage. The state is now considering remedies, comparable to requiring supply companies to ascertain applications to reuse or recycle clients’ undesirable luggage.

A graphic shows how many times a reusable bag must be used to be better for the environment than a single use plastic bag, according to a United Nations study.
(CBC )

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