Pincher Creek Co-op shoppers can now expect to pay five cents per plastic bag used when paying for their groceries, as the store has introduced the small charge on Thursday, Jan. 2.
Following suit with other Co-op grocery stores around the country, the Pincher Creek establishment is now an active participant of the bag fee.
Kayne Evans, grocery manager at the Pincher Creek Co-op, said the fee was introduced to serve two purposes: cost recovery and an incentive to shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.
“This is Co-op trying to be more environmentally responsible. For Co-op as a whole, Federated Co-operatives Limited, we looked at it, and it’s our responsibility, we feel, to lessen our environmental footprint,” said Evans.
“By charging for the bags, hopefully we’re reducing the waste. Other companies have done this too, but Co-op is taking the approach of environmental sustainability,” he said.
“It is incentive (to use reusable bags). We also sell reusable bags, and have different options for people to purchase.”
Evans said that additional funds generated from the fee that go above cost recovery would be invested back into the community.
“It’s a cost recovery program for the (plastic) bags, and it does cover a bit of the costs. Anything else left over, as a Co-operative, we donate back into the community,” he said.
While the bag fee has only just now come to the Pincher Creek Co-op, the grocery store has been no stranger to taking approaches to reduce plastic waste.
The store offers a bag return program, where shoppers can deposit their plastic bags, from any store, to be bundled up on pallets and shipped to be recycled.
While Co-ops elsewhere have been using the 5-cent bag fee for some time now (Calgary Co-ops introduced the fee in April 2019), Evans said the practice will soon be widespread at Co-op shopping centres.
“This year, our Co-op and others across western Canada are starting this program to reduce the use of single-use bags,” said Evans.
“For us specifically, we’re following the lead of the Co-operative Retail System. Right now everybody is getting on board to start charging for bags,” he said.
“It should be throughout all of the rural Co-ops now.”
He said that Pincher Creek shoppers are generally environmentally conscious, but the program is still being implemented as an additional measure to reduce the use of single-use plastics.
“Our customers are pretty good. A lot of them already use reusable bags,” he said.
The timeline of implementing the bag fees was up to the discretion of individual Co-op centres, and Evans said the Pincher Creek establishment felt that the New Year was a good time to make the introduction.
Shoppers may have noticed signs that had been put up throughout the month of December to let shoppers know of the change.
Calgary Co-ops also introduced compostable shopping bags, which cost customers 10-cents at checkout.
Evans said he had inquired about those bags as well, but for the time being it remains a Calgary-exclusive initiative.
“It’s actually a Calgary Co-op initiative, and we aren’t able to take advantage of that. They did that on their own,” said Evans.
“It might be down the road—we haven’t heard anything about it. If it were to come up we would for sure take advantage of it,” he said.
While the bag fee seems incremental, shoppers who don’t use reusable bags, or forget theirs at home, can expect a slightly larger grocery bill.
The Pincher Creek Co-op is still running their bag recycling program as well, and shoppers can bring any single-use plastic bags with them when they go grocery shopping, regardless of where they come from, to be sent back on the Federated Co-op truck to be recycled.