In an effort to curb the overuse of plastic bags, some Fort St. John retailers have begun charging a small fee for the single use bags.
In September 2009, the Northern Environmental Action Team conducted a reusable bag education campaign on behalf of the City, says Beth Thompson, program co-ordinator for NEAT.
Thompson says the organization did a community plastic bag assessment from 42 businesses in the city over a one week period.
She says participating retailers distributed approximately 307,000 plastic bags to customers, adding that the worst offenders were grocery stores.
Before the study began, there were already some stores that were charging a fee for plastic bags and, since then, several other stores have begun charging for plastic bags.
Thompson says feedback from residents has varied. She says Staples was one business that received negative feedback from its customers after it began charging for the bags.
The number of plastic bags distributed by city retailers is comparable to provincial numbers. According to the Retail Council of Canada, approximately 1.5 billion plastic bags are distributed across the province
NEAT is hoping to do a follow-up campaign to determine if the new charges have forced residents alter their use of plastic bags.
In general, participating retailers charge five cents per plastic bag.
The concept of charging customers for single use plastic bags is not new. Toronto has had a mandatory charge in place for all retailers for over a year and municipal government in Fort McMurray, Alberta has recently implemented a widespread plastic bag ban across the city.