Think Outside The Bag
Say NO to single-use – #ThinkOutsideTheBag
Creating a system that rewards reuse
Getting to Zero Waste is about engaging citizens and using our collective power to change the systems around us. That’s why we’re campaigning to reduce single-use retail bags in Yukon.
A policy on single-use bags would send a clear message that waste reduction is important to our communities and we all have a role to play. It would also be a great first step towards addressing other ways to keep valuable resources in circulation.
Single-use bags are a poster child for our throwaway society. The average life of a single-use bag is just 12 minutes.
Replacing single-use bags with reusable bags makes environmental and economic sense. A large scale shift to reusable grocery and retail bags will prevent the use of significant petroleum, paper and water resources and the release of harmful emissions associated with making and transporting single-use bags.
Single-use bags litter our sensitive wild spaces and take up valuable space in our rapidly growing landfills. Switching to reusables is key to extending the life of our landfills, and is one small step we can take to move towards a circular economy where resources are kept in circulation as long as possible.
What’s the solution?
There are two types of bag policies considered best practices for encouraging behaviour change. Bag fees or hybrid bag bans. Under a hydrid bag ban, single-use plastic bags are banned, and a fee is placed on all other types of single-use bag. Under a fee-only system, all types of bags are available for a fee.
Fees are an effective method for reducing bag consumption and changing consumer behaviour, because a customer is forced to make a conscious decision to purchase a bag.
Some people reuse checkout bags as trash can liners and for other purposes, so a fee provides choice to consumers while still encouraging the use of reusable bags.
Here’s just a few examples of successful bag fees or hybrid bans across the globe:
Northwest Territories: Over 70% reduction in single-use bags distributed after $0.25 fee introduced
Ireland: 90% reduction in bag use and single-use bag litter with fee of 22 Euro cents
Washington, DC: 50-70% reduction in bag usage following introduction of a $0.05 bag fee
San Jose: Banned plastic bags and introduced $0.10 bag charge on paper. Reduced litter 89% in storm drain system, 60% in creeks and rivers, and 59% in city streets and neighbourhoods.
Netherlands: 70% less bags used and 40% less bag litter – fees are determined by retailers.
Small, local actions help make an impact and bring about local change. Here are some things you can do right now:
- Bring Your Own Bag and encourage your friends and family to do the same!
- Take our survey HERE and share your thoughts on a single-use bag policy!
- Tell local retailers and politicians you want to see concrete actions to reduce single-use bag consumption!
- Get Caught Green Handed! Bring your own bag – we might catch you in the act and you’ll win a prize!
- Bugged about bags? Share your story on social media with the hashtag #ThinkOutsideTheBag!
- Visit our Zero Waste Yukon Facebook page or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved!
take the survey here
Frequently Asked Questions
What about plastic bag recycling?
Yes, clean plastic bags are technically recyclable, but they are a very low value commodity and have low recycling potential. Less than 11% of all plastics are recycled in Canada. This highlights the need for incentives to reduce waste volumes upstream.
Plastic bags are shipped south to the Lower Mainland, but a recycled bag is not made into a new bag. Generally recycled film is used to make end-use items that will be thrown out after one more use. In some other jurisdictions, film plastics are landfilled, incinerated or shipped overseas.
Raven Recycling pays roughly $100 per tonne to recycle soft plastics, not including the price of shipping the materials. At 35-40 bales per month, this is an unsustainable solution. We must stop the flow of single-use bags upstream instead of relying on recycling.
Are bags really a priority?
Canadians use 2.86 billion plastic bags a year and single-use bags are an icon of disposability. Reduction in bag consumption is something that can easily be accomplished using policy solutions.
Policies reducing single-use bag use are an easy first step on the road to creating a circular economy, and will lead to further changes that address other problematic items such as disposable cups and other single-use packaging. Change has to start somewhere, so why not start with bags?
What if I use my shopping bags to line my trash can?
One of the benefits of a fee system is that it still allows consumers the option to purchase bags if they want.
There are also alternatives to using plastic trash bin liners such as lining your bin with old newspaper or going bag free. Produce bags and bread bags could also be used for garbage.