The Bag Bylaw

Back on September 1st, 2010, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) started enforcing the Single-Use Shopping Bag Bylaw.  It has been a contentious piece of local legislation that has supporters and detractors firmly planted on their respective sides of the fence.

For those not from Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray, Fort McKay, Fort Chipewyan, Fort Fitzgerald, Gregoire Lake Estates, Anzac, Conklin, Janvier, Draper, Saprae Creek):  in our towns, when you go to the grocery store you have to bring your own bags, preferably the multi-use woven variety, or purchase something of a similar ilk when you get to the checkout - NO PLASTIC BAGS ALLOWED.  That's the long and short of it, though its complexities offer a few scenarios that are exempt (pharmacy, liquor store, etc.).  But when you go to a clothing or department store, the same no plastic rule still applies.

In our region, it's not uncommon to see someone leave a store with a bundle full of items in their arms because they had forgotten to bring their own bags and/or they didn't want to spend an extra dollar or two to buy one. In any other community, someone walking out of the store with merchandise would be chased down and arrested.

As part of the legislation (enacted before this new term of Council), a mandatory review was to be done at the end of the first year, now rapidly approaching.  Discussions vitriolically expressing pro's and con's are happening on Facebook and Twitter, on the streets and around the water cooler.  This is an issue for which everyone has an opinion.

To help quantify the feelings and perspectives, the RMWB has set up a comprehensive online survey on their recycling website.  It takes about 15 minutes to fill out and provides ample opportunity to articulate your position on the matter.  As they will need a couple of weeks to sort through the data before presenting the findings to Council in September, the deadline to participate is August 15th.

Our family started making the transition to multi-use bags in the 6 months leading up to the start of the bylaw, so, for us, the implementation was easy.  That is not to say we always remember our bags when we go shopping.  We're pretty good about when we go to the grocery store.  However, when we go to Walmart or Canadian Tire, I too often forget the bags in the car.

Dealing with the growing number of bags - of all shapes and sizes - is an ongoing challenge.  After the groceries get unpacked, the bags get stuffed into a space in the hall closest until such time that they are overflowing and we get inspired to sort them out and put them back into the car.  It is an imperfect system, and at times frustrating.  But, our family firmly believes in the benefits.

One citizen shared with me one small example of the difference this bylaw has made.

"Before this came into effect, my neighborhood would be littered with tattered plastic bags that had blown over from the grocery store that's just up the block," they said. "We don't see that anymore.  I would hate to go back to the way it was before."

The other side of the issue cites massive inconvenience and negative impacts at the business level.  They also miss the abundance of plastic bags to use to line their waste baskets, pick up doggy doo doo, and to satisfy myriad other demands around the house.

As a Municipal Councillor charged with the responsibility of ultimately making a decision about whether we should keep, adjust or scrap this bylaw, I am compelled to keep an open mind.  I'm so glad that a survey process has been created to gather meaningful research to help us figure out which way to go.  Make sure to add your voice to the discussion via the survey.  This is your chance to put all your thoughts on the table.

Take the survey NOW - CLICK HERE


  1. I love that fact that you're seeking an open mind on this, even though you are a supporter. Hopefully the feedback the RMWB receives makes the council's path forward on this clear.

  2. Thanks Matt! I'm certain that Council is committed to keeping an open mind. My understanding is that the report will come forward some time this fall.


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