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Plastic-bag ban in Newfoundland and Labrador starts Oct. 1

A customer leaves a Sobeys grocery store carrying a plastic bag in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 31, 2019.
Starting Oct. 1, shoppers in Newfoundland and Labrador will have to carry their purchases in reusable bags; as of that date, single-use plastic bags will no longer be permitted to be distributed by retailers in the province. — Postmedia/File

Province confirms that starting on that date, retailers will no longer be permitted to distribute single-use plastic bags

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Four weeks from Thursday, a single-use plastic shopping bag will start to become a collector’s item in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Minister of the Environment Derek Bennett today reiterated that a ban on the distribution of retail plastic bags in the province will begin on Oct. 1.

Originally, the ban was to have been in place on July 1, but the date was pushed forward after a request from the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, which said it was concerned about employee safety in handling reusable bags during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That request and its granting came in early April during the first weeks of the pandemic and the provincial public health restrictions which had resulted from it.

Work on regulations to halt the use of plastic bag ban, which comes under the Environmental Protection Act, began in April of 2019.


SaltWire file photo
SaltWire file photo

Even without the ban, the province notes there has been a decrease in the amount of waste created by single-use plastic bags, along with work to put alternatives in place; a number of retailers have already instituted a policy of only permitting customers to use reusable or paper bags,

Newfoundland and Labrador will be the second province to implement such a ban, following Prince Edward Island. Similar legislation has also passed in Nova Scotia, but has not yet been implemented.

In a news release, Bennett said Newfoundland and Labrador’s ban is in concert with ongoing work with the Council on the Zero Plastic Waste Strategy as part of the Ocean Plastics Charter.

The federal government has indicated a national ban on single-use plastic bags could come as early as 2021, although that indication came in January of this year, before the start of the pandemic.

At the time, federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Canadians use as many as 15 billion plastic bags annually.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Note: The backgrounder was part of a provincial government news release on the plastic-bag ban

1. Will plastic bags still be provided at the grocery store for the purchase of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, etc.?

The ban of single-use retail plastic bags does not apply to bags used to:

  • Package meat, poultry or fish, whether pre-packaged or not;
  • Package fruit, vegetables, candy, grains, nuts and other loose bulk food items;
  • Wrap flowers or potted plants;
  • Protect prepared foods or bakery goods that are not pre-packaged;
  • Transport live fish;
  • Protect newspapers or printed material left at a person's residence or place of business;
  • Protect clothes after professional laundering or dry cleaning; or
  • Protect used tires taken off vehicles and placed in a person's vehicle.

2. While COVID-19 cases are low in this province, what about retailers and consumers who remain concerned about bringing reusable bags into grocery and retail store as they may carry the COVID-19 virus?

Consumers are asked to wash their reusable bags after each use at a grocery or retail store. They are also asked to follow the directions of the grocery and retail stories regarding packing of purchases themselves into reusable bags. Health Canada has not limited the use of reusable bags due to COVID-19, and (like the province), recommends bringing clean reusable bags when shopping. (For more information, go here.)

3.    Will customers be charged for paper bags provided by a business?

The cost of alternatives to retail plastic bags, such as paper bags, offered to customers will be at the discretion of the individual business.

4.    What would be considered a reusable bag?

Under the Plastic Retail Bag Regulations, a reusable bag means is primarily made of cloth or washable fabric, and is designed and manufactured to be capable of at least 100 uses.

5. If an individual, does not wish to use a bag at all, will they be obligated to purchase a reusable or paper bag at the store?

A consumer is not obligated to purchase a reusable or paper bag at the business to transport their purchased products.

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