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Nov 12, 2023

The compostable bags used at the check-out counter by Calgary Co-op shoppers will be retired in December due to the federal government's single-use plastics ban

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is joining Calgary Co-op’s fight to save its compostable grocery bags.

The bags have been caught in the federal government’s ban on single-use plastics that has forced the retirement of plastic bags at the check-out counter.

A petition started by Co-op has garnered more than 11,000 signatures on Rempel Garner, who represents the riding of Calgary Nose Hill, said Wednesday that she will work with the grocer on a parliamentary petition that will carry weight in the House of Commons, and present it herself.

The policy banning the bags comes into effect in December.

“Who doesn’t love this product? You get a free compost bin liner, you feel good about this, it is a win, win, win,” said Rempel Garner. “It is peak Ottawa bureaucracy. I think that this will become more of a flashpoint. I credit Calgary Co-op actually giving the federal government an opportunity to do the right thing without causing a maelstrom of fire over this issue. But now they need to act. This is just ridiculous.”

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Hey @CalgaryCoop, an official Parliamentary e-petition is the only way to compel an official response from the government to the petitioners. This petition won't. No politician gets the data from an official e-petition either. I'm happy to sponsor it, call…

Rempel Garner is confident the petition will reach the 500 signatures needed for a parliamentary petition to be presented in the house. She noted she has heard from people of all political stripes who support Co-op.

Co-op developed the compostable bags in 2019 alongside the City of Calgary in an effort to find a more environmentally sustainable solution to standard plastic bags, which aren’t biodegradable and pile up in landfills.

The compostable bags contain zero plastic fibres and are designed to be reused as a liner for kitchen compost bins.

But when Ottawa unveiled its ban on single-use plastics, the compostable bags were included, and so far the federal government has yet to budge.

Calgary Co-op is allowed to sell them on store shelves in a package, like garbage bags, but not in the check-out line.

“It is certainly confusing and we think it’s going to be confusing for the consumer, and that’s our primary concern,” said Sage Pullen McIntosh, director of communications and loyalty at Calgary Co-op. “We don’t feel (banning compostable bags is) necessarily is going to do a lot when it comes to reducing the single-use plastic waste in Canada. We feel that we’ve got an innovative product . . . anything that we can do to provide that clarity, that information to the federal government in order for them to be able to open this conversation, we have offered and will continue to offer to do so.”

Co-op stopped using plastic bags at all retail locations in 2020, and the compostable bags have been popular with shoppers.

Pullen McIntosh said the online petition has been a success over the past few weeks, however petitions are given little regard in the parliamentary process.

Rempel Garner said this is an opportunity for Calgary to shine as an innovative agent of environmental change, but the city is instead being held back by the federal government.

“I do think that, at times, the federal government politically paints the people of Alberta out to be this homogeneous group of people that aren’t appreciative of the need to innovate to protect the environment,” she said. “Every Albertan knows that’s not the case. Here you have the perfect example of that and it feels like the federal government is trying to bury it, literally. And it’s wrong.”

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Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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