‘Incredibly annoying’: Calgarians react to single-use item bylaw

The new single-use by-law in Calgary is facing overwhelming backlash

Refuse and Reduce: Consumers and establishments comply with single-use item bylaws in Calgary, Alta, on Feb. 5, 2024. The bylaw focuses on reducing items that can be replaced with reusable options. (Photo by Janille Delos Reyes/The Press)

Calgary’s single-use item bylaw— implemented by Calgary City Council on Jan. 16 —  is generating a passionate reaction from Calgarians.

The bylaw aims to reduce all types of single-use items, such as utensils, straws, pre-packaged condiments, shopping bags, and food containers. These items are provided by request only, to prevent unnecessary waste.

The regulations also require business licence holders to charge a minimum of 15 cents for paper shopping bags and $1 for reusable cloth bags. In 2025, the rates will increase to 25 cents and $2, respectively.

 Calgarians are expressing reservation despite the environmental motivation behind the bylaw.

“It’s incredibly annoying, I’m going to be honest,” said retail worker Jaunelle Ellis.

Ellis said that corporations should shoulder the charge for producing items with polluting materials. 

“If they have to pay extra to get these single-use plastics, they’re either going to switch to a different material or stop altogether,” Ellis said. “I think they will just change. The same thing with the straws. Some companies did find alternatives.” 

As of 2023, the Government of Canada banned the sale of plastic checkout bags, straws, cutlery, and non-recyclable items. In 2025, the government will prohibit the manufacture, import and sale for export of these items. 

However, in November 2023, the federal government’s ministerial order of the single-use plastic ban was pronounced unconstitutional by the Federal Court. The order labelled all plastic-manufactured items as ” toxic substances” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

However, according to Calgary city council, the federal ruling will not affect the single-use plastics prohibition regulations. As such, the bylaw will remain in effect. 

“People dislike spending more money than necessary, and there will be a decline in people buying bags,” said Ellis. “But if it does get repealed, plastics will still be getting out there, and nothing will change.”

Registered nurse Kristine Rugg says she feels encouraged due to the bylaw’s positive environmental impact while acknowledging its downside.

The bylaw requires foodware accessories to be provided by request only. (Photo by Janille Delos Reyes/SAIT)

“I think, in theory, it’s a really good idea to reduce how much we use these things, and getting rid of those is a great thing,” said Rugg. “But I think, in reality, it’s not enough money to deter people from not using single-use products, and in essence, I think it’s just an extra cost passed on to consumers right now.”

According to Rugg, council should modify some areas of the bylaw. 

“Some single-use items are already compostable,” she said. “I don’t know if those should have a charge to them. I think amending it so that it doesn’t include compostable items would be a good idea.”

Kayne Johnson, a film and video production student from SAIT, said that the bylaw diminishes consumer convenience. 

“I guess, to a degree, it can benefit the environment,” Johnson said. “But prices are going up, as well. We see that in our current economy, where everything’s going up in price.”

Another student, Vanessa Fernandez, shared a similar concern.

“I think increasing the charge price is not fair at all,” Fernandez said. “I think they should keep it as cheap as possible, especially for people who can’t afford it.” 

Apart from concerned Calgarians, politicians such as Coun. Andre Chabot are adocating to have council repeal the bylaw.

“People are going to go out of their way to not follow it when you start telling folks ‘you must do this,’” Chabot told the Calgary Herald on Jan. 29. “Not only do you have to buy it, you have to ask for it.”

At the end of January, council officially initiated the repeal process of the bylaw. Coun. Jennifer Wyness pushed the notion forward during the council meeting. The motion received 10-5 support. 

Mayor Jyoti Gondek and councillors Courtney Walcott, Kourtney Penner, Gian-Carlo Carra, and Jasmine Mian voted against the motion. 

Penner said it’s too soon to abolish the bylaw. 

“We haven’t given this a shot — two weeks is not a shot,” she said during the Tuesday meeting. “We need to give it much longer.” 

The bylaw will remain in effect at least until a public hearing in May.

As the public awaits the verdict, Johnson hopes more people will become informed about the current bylaw.

“Just spread the message more and keep the people in the loop of what’s going on.”

Refuse and Reduce: Consumers and establishments comply with single-use item bylaws in Calgary, Alta. on Feb. 5, 2024. The bylaw focuses on reducing items that can be replaced with reusable options. (Photo by Janille Delos Reyes/The Press)
About Janille Delos Reyes 7 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Janille Delos Reyes is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.