Sunday, July 12, 2009

LCBO tosses Canada to curb

It's pure hypocrisy.

The mandated 5 cents fee retailers must charge customers on plastic bags in Toronto is outrageous. And the trend is spreading. Some retailers are now charging customers right across the GTA.

Consider this: Remember those nifty, sturdy plastic bags you used to get when you bought booze at the LCBO?

They never ripped and they kept your liquor safe in all weather. And you used them over and over.

They were made right here in Ontario -- at Hymopak in Etobicoke.

Better still, they contained a minimum of 20% recycled plastic. They're all politically incorrect history now, replaced by those "reusable" bags the LCBO now sells -- made in China.

"The LCBO had an opportunity of grabbing hold of a green movement on sustainability," says Cathy Cirko, VP of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.

"The decision should have been to keep the bag and promote it as a reusable bag and promote it as a bag made in Canada, employing people in Canada."

An LCBO spokesman said the corporation's purchasing procedures require them to include offshore bidders.

"To exclude international vendors would be considered geographic discrimination and contravene international trade agreements," said Linda Hapak in an e-mail.

"None of the bids we received offered a Canadian source for these bags."

All three bags they currently sell at the LCBO are from China.

"We have now identified a Canadian source for a suitable reusable bag and plan to introduce a domestically-produced, nylon reusable bag for sale in our stores this fall," she said.

Well, good. But they were using Canadian-made bags in the first place.

Cirko says legal issues have been raised about Toronto's 5 cents-a-bag bylaw.

As far as she knows, it's the first time government has regulated the price of the product in the marketplace. The City of Toronto Act gave the city the right to tax certain items, but this isn't a tax. It's a fee.

Since the bags cost the stores only 1-2 cents, it's providing a huge windfall to retailers.

"The fee isn't warranted, because even in the city of Toronto, seven out of 10 carry-out bags are reused," Cirko said.

Exactly. I used the plastic bags to line waste bins or to wrap my lunch. Others used them to pick up pet waste.

Now I have to buy kitchen catchers and lunch bags. Cirko says after they banned plastic shopping bags in Ireland, the amount of plastics going to landfill actually increased 20%, because the substitute bags are thicker and heavier than the shopping bags.

Cirko claims the energy environmental footprint of the pulp and paper industry that produces paper bags is much greater than the environmental impact of using plastic.

One of the more troubling aspects of this fee is the issue of food contamination.

Surely we've learned from last year's deadly listeria outbreak that we need to be more careful about food safety.

Charging people five cents for a plastic bag to wrap a leaky package of chicken does not promote hygienic food handling.

I was happy to buy the cloth shopping bags. I keep them in the car and have them available when I shop. But that doesn't help me when I'm doing spur-of-the-moment shopping. I resent having to either cough up the nickel or stash my purchases in my purse.

And I resent having to pay for a bag to stop the hamburger dripping onto my cornflakes

Next time a clerk asks me for a nickel, I'm going to leave my purchases at the counter. The only way to get stores to take notice is to hit them at the cash register.

For a five cent bag, they'll loose my business.

Then I'll find a store outside the city where they won't rip me off.

And for pity's sake, let's hope the LCBO sees the light and brings back those Canadian-made, environmentally friendly plastic bags they so carelessly threw away.


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