Isabelle Impey holds one of the re-usable cloth bags grade school students have distributed to many downtown businesses. (Photo by: John Boivin)

Rossland businesses ready as plastic bag ban looms

Storeowners say the transition shouldn’t be too jarring for them

Businesses in Rossland say they’re ready to change as the city prepares to pass its ban on single-use plastic bags.

“Right now we’re at the start of it,” says David Ferraro of his grocery store’s transition. “We haven’t ordered any more plastic bags, and we have new paper bags sitting in the warehouse in Trail.

“I am trying to get rid of my old plastic bags before I introduce the paper bags.”

Next Monday, Rossland’s city council is expected to give final approval to a bylaw to ban single-use bags from stores within city limits.

SEE: Bylaw banning plastic bags introduced to Rossland council

Providing a check-out bag except as allowed in the bylaw, providing a bag when the customer didn’t want one, or refusing to use a customer’s reusable bag, all carry a $100 fine per offence. It’s about half that for individuals violating the bylaw.

Businesses can be charged up to $10,000 for repeated violations of the bylaw, individuals up to $500.

“It’s a long time coming, I think it is fantastic,” says Bonny Kavaloff of Nature’s Den Health Store. “I am very much for it.

“I have recycled plastic bags and we’ve been doing that for years.”

Most other stores canvassed by the Rossland News said they were ready to make the transition too. Some already re-use plastic bags, others use paper or biodegradable bags already.

Most said locals already come to their shops with reusable bags. And recently, Grade 3 and 4 students from Rossland Summit School held a drive to collect reusable cloth bags. They washed them and distributed them to most stores downtown.

“The ‘take a bag/leave a bag’ will help a lot, it’s great,” says Alicia Graham of the Bombshack. “The cost for me to buy a ton of fabric bags, when I’m not a large company, would be too much. I am not buying a thousand bags at a time.”

While she thinks the ban is a good thing, it won’t work for everyone. Right now, she still uses plastic bags when tourists come through.

“But they are able to reuse them,” she says. “It will go in a suitcase, with shoes in it etc. So that works.”

Big transition

But far and away the largest transition is for the Ferraro Foods grocery store. And they are bearing the brunt of the cost of the bylaw.

“Oh boy, is it costing a lot of money,” says Ferraro wryly. “A paper bag costs me 16 cents. A plastic bag, 1.9 cents.

“There’s a huge benefit, and I believe in the ban. I believe we have to start somewhere and this is one place we should start, getting rid of plastic bags.

“But we’ll have to charge for it, and that’s something I didn’t believe in before. But I’m going to have to pass on some of my cost to the consumer.”

It may not seem like much per bag, but over the course of the year it can really add up. And Ferraro notes his competitors in Trail — he’s making the transition at the store down there too — will have an economic advantage over him.

“Someone like Walmart charges 5 cents for a bag,” he says. “Well, I’m guessing their bags cost them less than it costs me for mine. So they are making money selling their plastic bags … more than double their cost.”

But disposable bags aren’t the only target in Ferraro’s sights. He’s looking for ways to reduce packaging everywhere.

“We’re looking at the produce department, my brother is trying to get away from Styrofoam in the meat department,” he says.

“It’s coming closer. He has three sizes of trays that work now. One is made out of recyclable plastic, another is fibre/pulp formed. Were trying to find more of that.”

One place he hasn’t been able to find a good solution is the bakery department.

“Bakery is tough. We are looking for paper trays, but if you stack the product wrong it gets squished. But it is coming fast, and that’s good, and the prices for these products is coming down.”

Ferraro says by September, he’ll have used the last of the palets of plastic bags in his store

There are a few exceptions to the rules. Plastic bags are still permitted for nuts, candy or bulk foods, or when used to wrap frozen fish or meat, flowers, baked goods or pharmacy drugs.

Hardware store bulk items are also exempt — things like nails and bolts.

You can also use plastic to transport live fish, wrap laundry from the dry cleaner, or protect larger items like bedding or newspapers from getting wet.

Customers who bring in old plastic bags can also re-use them at check-out time as well.

The deadline for businesses to be compliant with the bylaw is Jan. 1, 2020.

“I think the consumer is ready for it,” says Ferraro. “There’s been a lot of press in the last couple of years. Maybe two or three years ago they weren’t. But now people can see what is happening in our oceans, and our landfills, things like that, and they are ready to make a change.”

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