Plastic bags gone from Safeway

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Effective today, Safeway Fort Frances will no longer be giving plastic bags when checking out customers.

This is done to honour the store’s goal of stopping the use of plastic bags with the beginning of their new fiscal year on May 5.

Krystle Whiteley, Safeway manager, said customers have been reminded of the new rules via an automated recording that plays on the store speaker as they are shopping.

“We have signage throughout the entire store and our cashiers are communicating with our customers,” Whiteley said. “I think that’s the goal with the entire town. A lot of our customers already have reusable bags. I think as a whole, the community does very well with the use of reusable bags. We do sell quite a few [reusable bags] all year round.”

The beginning of the new year marked a significant milestone for the Town of Fort Frances as it became the first municipality in Ontario to pass a ban on single-use plastics in 2021. Fort Frances council passed the bylaw on New Year’s Day.

Under this new bylaw, all businesses are prohibited from providing single-use plastics. However, in order to give businesses time to set new protocols that adhere to the new guidelines, fines for non-compliance will only be issued in 2022. Walmart has already stopped the use of plastic bags and Safeway is following suit.

Under the proposed bylaw, corporations or licensed businesses found guilty of violating the new guidelines will face a fine between $100 but not more than $10,000. On the other hand, individuals found guilty will face a fine not less than $50 and not more than $500.

Although businesses will not be fined until 2022, about eight months from now, Whiteley said Safeway customers have been expecting the change as the store has been communicating with them throughout the entire process.

In a previous interview with the Fort Frances Times, Patrick Briere, bylaw enforcement, said in an email that as a result of businesses complying, less plastic bags will be entering the landfill sites.

When these plastics are replaced with readily recyclable or biodegradable materials as an alternate, they will break down much faster in landfills, helping to reduce the environmental impacts over the long term, he said.

It is estimated that a town of 2,500 households could send a million plastic bags to landfills each year. Fort Frances has about 4,000 households, meaning annual single-use plastic bags sent to waste is estimated to be 1.6 million. This number is expected to depreciate as the town gets closer to the new year.

Exemptions to this bylaw include packaging loose bulk items, flower wrap, transporting live fish, packaging medical supplies, collecting pet waste, packaging loose hardware items and protecting clothing or other linens after professional laundering or dry-cleaning.

From totes to t-shirt bags and freezer bags, Whiteley said Safeway has loads of other affordable options customers could purchase if they need to. In the summer Safeway carries some really nice totes that are great for the farmers market and great for freezer products, Whiteley added.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Whiteley said. “We like to comply. We obviously want to do our part for the environment. I think as a company we’ve done a lot to reduce our waste as a whole.”