Walmart Canada has launched a nationwide campaign to discourage the use of thin plastic bags and boost the amount of film returned for recycling.
The retailer will begin charging customers 5 cents for single-use plastic bags, an effort to encourage the switch to reusable ones. It will also use an in-store education and awareness campaign to boost post-consumer film collections at its nearly 400 locations across Canada.
The message of the campaign will be “don’t use plastic bags, but if you do, bring them back to the store and we’ll make sure that they’re recycled,” said Alex Roberton, senior director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada.
“All of our stores collect the bags, but for some stores the recovery rate is not as high as we’d like it to be,” Roberton told Plastics Recycling Update.
Walmart Canada is a division of Arkansas-based Walmart Stores, Inc. Walmart Canada has its own corporate structure, including a president and CEO.
The elimination of free, single-use bags will start in British Columbia on Feb. 9 and roll out to other provinces in the following months, according to a press release. In addition to charging 5 cents per single-use bag, the company will sell reusable bags for 25 cents each.
Walmart Canada will use some of the money generated by the 5-cent charges to help support recycling industry efforts to recover plastic films, Roberton said. The company is still in discussions on new initiatives but says it will make a formal announcement in the next few months.
Meanwhile, Walmart Canada is expecting a steep drop in plastic bag usage. In Japan and the U.K., two countries where Walmart charges for single-use bags, customers have reduced their reliance on the single-use bags by more than 50 percent, Roberton said.
“It incentivizes customers to strongly consider not taking a bag,” he said.
A relatively small number of jurisdictions in Canada have laws banning or placing mandatory fees on thin plastic bags. The small towns of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Leaf Rapids, Manitoba and Huntingdon and Deux-Montagnes, both in Quebec, have banned them, according to the Toronto Sun. The Montreal City Council is considering a ban. The sparsely populated Northwest Territories imposes a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper bags provided at checkout, according to Canadian Packaging.
With about 1.2 million customers per day, Walmart Canada currently provides hundreds of millions of bags per year to customers.