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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Elected as a Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for the Constituency of Saanich South on May 12, 2009. New Democratic Opposition Critic for the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Raised on Quadra Island and has an undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia. Extensive track record as a community leader, advocate and environmental activist.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Remember the days when we were so crazy and used plastic grocery bags?

‘People will get used to it’

Going green looks fine to shoppers

Customers at Langford’s Real Canadian Superstore didn’t seem to mind bringing their own bags to the checkout yesterday, as the store became what it says is the first major grocery retailer in B.C. to go plastic-bag free.

Shoppers packed purchases into reusable bags and plastic bins, as well as old plastic bags. Many had already switched to cloth bags, part of a growing movement against single-use plastic bags.

“The idea is a good thing,” said shopper Oscar Trachsel of Metchosin. “People will get used to it.”

Langford’s Nancy Peddie, who packed close to $200 worth of groceries into plastic bags saved from previous shopping trips, agreed. “There are too many [plastic bags] out there.”

The 127,500-square-foot Langford store is the second Superstore in the chain to eliminate plastic bags, as part of the company’s goal of reducing the number dumped in landfills by a billion a year. The first was in Milton, Ont., where the move was “very, very popular,” said Lori Stene, spokeswoman for parent company Loblaw Cos. Ltd. “People in general are looking for ways to be more environmentally responsible.”

About 950,000 plastic bags a year were distributed from the Langford store prior to the ban. To replace them, the store has sent Langford households reusable bags made from 85 per cent recycled plastic water bottles, Stene said. The bags are selling for two for 99 cents until Dec. 8. Area residents also received a coupon for a free plastic bin with a minimum purchase of $25.

Lana Popham of Central Saanich showed up at the store yesterday with a letter congratulating the company, and is urging other grocery chains to follow the example. She wants a ban on disposable plastic bags in the region by the end of 2008. “Timing is everything and I think people are ready for this change. People are sick of wasting.”

Environmentalists say Canadians use about 10 billion plastic bags a year. Many end up in the ocean, where they look like jellyfish and are swallowed by animals such as whales, sea turtles and sea birds, Popham said. Dumped in landfills, the bags have been predicted to last up to 1,000 years.

The move to ban or limit the bags is global. Tiny towns like Leaf Rapids, Man., to big cities like San Francisco, have banned the bags, while Ireland has a “plastax” of about 20 cents per bag.

Already, most grocery store chains in Greater Victoria sell reusable bags, and many pay customers a few cents for each bag they reuse.