Sobeys plans to remove plastic bags from all its grocery stores by the end of January 2020.
The company, headquartered in Stellarton, N.S., said in a news release it’s the first national grocery store to eliminate plastic bags.
Sobeys called it the first step in “removing unnecessary plastic from all retail.”
The chain said removing the bags from its 255 locations across Canada will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation each year. The move to phase out plastic bags includes other stores within the Sobeys group, including FreshCo, Safeway, Foodland, IGA and Rachelle Béry locations.
“Our customers and our employees have told us loud and clear — they want us to use less plastic — and we agree with them,” Michael Medline, president and CEO of the chain’s parent, Empire Company Limited, said in the release.
“This is a first step, and we plan to make meaningful progress every year to take plastic out of our stores and our products.”
Sobeys said paper bags will be made available, but it hopes customers will bring reusable bags.
The grocer plans to adopt other methods to phase out plastic in stores. In August, Sobeys will bring in mesh produce bags made from recycled water bottles. The bags were first launched at IGAs in Quebec in June.
Banned in P.E.I.
Whole Foods, a U.S.-based retailer with locations in Ontario and British Columbia, eliminated plastic bags at its checkouts in 2008, and announced earlier this year a plan to reduce plastic including getting rid of plastic straws and shifting to smaller plastic produce bags.
Loblaw Companies Limited, owner of grocery stores like Atlantic Superstore, Wholesale Club and No Frills, has also taken steps to reduce its use of plastic bags.
In 2009, its stores moved to a pay-for-a-bag approach and a company spokesperson told CBC News the company has eliminated nearly 12 billion plastic bags from its stores. Some Loblaw stores don’t charge for plastic bags, however.
Some of its individual stores have removed plastic bags entirely. The Atlantic Superstore location on Quinpool Road in Halifax, for example, removed plastic bags in 2008.
The move by Sobeys comes on the heels of Prince Edward Island’s ban on plastic bags, which took effect on Canada Day.
P.E.I. is the first province to ban single-use plastic bags.