Should Edmonton scrap its single-use item bylaw? Supporters and critics weigh in

The director of a non-profit waste reduction organization in Edmonton said he’s not worried about the city getting rid of its single-use items bylaw.

Calgary city council repealed its single-use bylaw on Tuesday. The bylaw, designed to reduce waste going to city landfills, required businesses to charge for single-use bags and only provide single-use items, like straws, upon request. It was passed in January 2023 and came into effect on Jan. 16 of this year, about six months after Edmonton’s bylaw.

Sean Stepchuk, who co-founded the non-profit organization Waste Free Edmonton, said he is disappointed by Calgary’s decision but thinks Edmonton’s bylaw is safe.

“People here have made the changes, they’ve adapted and there’s been no indication from city administration or any councillors that there’s a desire to take a step backwards,” he told CBC News on Wednesday.

Like Calgary, Edmonton’s bylaw instituted a charge for single-use bags and a requirement to request single-use items. It also bans foam containers.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith tweeted support for the Calgary decision on Tuesday and said she hopes “a few other Alberta municipalities make the same change.”

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said administration consulted the public extensively before the bylaw came into effect and the city will continue to listen to feedback about it.

“As people see the benefits of reducing single-use items, the more supportive they are,” he said.

Stepchuk said he thinks the bylaw is working. He said he has noticed fewer overflowing garbage cans outside cafes and fewer single-use items littered throughout the river valley.

Edmontonians surveyed about the bylaw last fall had mixed opinions on it. Nearly 55 per cent of the roughly 8,000 respondents surveyed said it was a reasonable or somewhat reasonable measure to help reduce waste but 45 per cent of respondents said they felt the bylaw was not reasonable.

A majority of business owners the city surveyed said they did not support reducing single-use items.

“They’re not against reducing single-use items but they want to be taking the best route for their business,” said Mona Pinder, executive director of the Alberta Hospitality Association, which represents hundreds of restaurants across the province.

Pinder said the costs of running a business have gone up and sourcing permitted packaging at a reasonable price has been tough.

She said businesses in both Edmonton and Calgary are opposed to the bylaws but in Calgary has had more opposition from the public.

Neil Royale, owner and chef of the Edmonton vegan pizza restaurant Die Pie, said the bylaw has increased costs and angered some customers. He says people complain to servers about it once or twice a week.

Neil Royale says Edmonton’s single-use bylaw has angered some of his restaurant’s customers.

Die Pie owner and chef Neil Royale says Edmonton’s single-use bylaw has garnered complaints from some of his restaurant’s customers. (Nancy Carlson/CBC)

“It would be nice if they did get rid of it,” he said.

Post-secondary Students Simar Luthra and Jonas Nordin said the Edmonton bylaw partially inspired them to start a business that sells branded, reusable bags to small businesses.

Their EcoSatchel bags would be an alternative to plastic ones that are still being used, Nordin said.

“We’re hoping that Edmonton maintains their commitment to sustainability and that we don’t follow what Calgary’s doing,” Nordin said.

311 inquiries drop

Denis Jubinville, branch manager of waste services for the City of Edmonton, said inquiries to 311 about the bylaw peaked during the month it came into effect and quickly subsided, dropping from 536 in July 2023 to 88 in September. There were 11 inquiries to 311 about the bylaw last month.

Jubinville said the city has not yet issued any fines for non-compliance, focusing instead on informing and supporting businesses to help them meet requirements.

He said the city has received 37 resident complaints about non-compliant businesses, but through canvassing, the city has determined most businesses are following the rules.

As of December 2023, 76 per cent of businesses the city visited were fully compliant and 23 per cent were working toward compliance.

Jubinville said a waste characterization study in 2025 will analyze samples of residential waste and public litter containers to measure the prevalence of single-use items.

“To be effective, the bylaw requires businesses and customers to change their behaviour, and while we’ve seen positive initial results, we realize these changes take time,” he said.

Minimum fees for paper bags and reusable bags in Edmonton are set to increase on July 1.

Originally Appeared Here

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