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Shopping without plastic in N.L.

Julie Learning, a cashier at Freak Lunchbox in downtown St. John’s, is always happy to scoop bulk candy into a reusable container. — Melissa Wong/Special to The Telegram
Julie Learning, a cashier at Freak Lunchbox in downtown St. John’s, is always happy to scoop bulk candy into a reusable container. — Melissa Wong/Special to The Telegram

More people seem to be thinking outside the single-use checkout bag and inside environmentally friendly containers

Even without a government ban on single-use plastic bags in place in Newfoundland and Labrador, some local businesses are taking up the challenge to use less plastic.

“Bring your container to one of our friendly staff members to be weighed prior to shopping our bulk candy selection and we will label your item with the price to deduct off your total at the checkout.” That’s the message downtown St. John’s candy store Freak Lunchbox posted on its Facebook page to encourage customers to shop with their own containers. “Fill your Boots (Mason Jars, Cups or Lunchboxes, etc!)”

“We just started this program last week and we encourage everyone to bring in their weird and wacky containers,” said Terri Maxwell, the manager at Freak Lunchbox.

In and around St. John’s, some shops offer boxes, cloth bags, glass or tin containers, or customers carry out their purchases unpacked, by hand. Some large stores charge per single-use plastic bag as a disincentive to the people who use them.

Others use Boomerang bags.

Boomerang Bags started in Australia in 2013 to reduce single-use plastic bags. Now there are almost 750 groups around the world making bags.

Boxes and bags can be reused by customers to carry their goods, unlike single-use plastic bags.
Boxes and bags can be reused by customers to carry their goods, unlike single-use plastic bags.

One Boomerang Bag group is on the Avalon Peninsula. It was established by Emily Hunt who is a board member of the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.

“Right now, we have our bags at Food for Thought, Healthy Vibe on Water Street, Bee’s Knees and the Tool Library,” Hunt wrote via email.

“The bags are made by local volunteers and are placed in small, local shops for you to use if you’ve forgotten to bring your own bag with you. Ideally, you’ll return the bag on your next visit and then it’s ready for the next person to use. This last step doesn’t always happen, but we’re happy if people are out there are using the bags.

“The bags are all made using second-hand fabric that has been donated to us,” Hunt added. “We are hoping to have Boomerang Bags at the new Farmers’ Market location, but keeping up with the demand for the stores... has proven to be a challenge.”

Just as customers and businesses are taking matters into their hands, some community groups are trying to change the law.

Tony Keats is the mayor of the Town of Dover, and president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, an advocacy group that has been trying to ban single-use plastic bags since 2015.

“So right now, our province uses 100 million single-use plastic bags each year,” Keats said from his office in Dover.

He pointed out that a lot of stores, such as Costco, the Bee’s Knees and the Travel Bug don’t use plastic bags.

“We don’t need plastics in our system anymore. It just doesn’t break down in our environment.”



Keats has praise for Prince Edward Island, which he calls the “first province in Canada to come out with an act on plastic bag reduction and get rid of it.”

According to the Guardian newspaper in P.E.I., “The law would be implemented gradually, starting with a fee of 15 cents per bag starting July 1, 2018. The fee would increase to 25 cents per bag on July 1, 2019. As of Jan. 1, 2020, businesses could face fines for distributing free, single-use plastic bags to customers. As of that date, stores can only sell reusable or paper bags.”

melissa.wong@thetelegram.com

@JournalistWong 

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