On January 16, 2024, The City of Calgary will introduce a new single-use items bylaw to reduce single-use items made from all types of materials, not just plastics. The City is focused on preventing waste and promoting reusables through a combination of bylaw requirements and voluntary programs to encourage waste reduction.
“We’re encouraging Calgarians to refuse and reuse to help reduce the number of single-use items going to our landfills or ending up as litter. Let’s choose to refuse things like unneeded shopping bags or foodware accessories and get in the habit of bringing our own reusable options instead,” says Sharon Howland, leader of program management at the City of Calgary.
So, what can you expect the next time you go grocery shopping or order takeout?
What the single-use items bylaw entails
Under the new bylaw, businesses will be required to provide shopping bags by request only and charge a minimum fee for new paper (15 cents) and reusable shopping bags ($1) when customers ask for these items.
“By adding minimum fees to paper and reusable bags, it will encourage Calgarians to remember to bring their own reusable bags or to go bagless where possible, reducing waste and avoiding the fees,” says Howland.
In 2025, the bylaw requires that businesses increase the minimum fee for new paper bags to 25 cents and $2 for reusable ones, further providing that incentive to refuse a bag or to bring your own bag.
It isn’t just single-use bags that contribute to our waste problem. How many times have you received your takeout order, and the bag is filled with a handful of ketchup packets, napkins and utensils that you don’t actually need? Often these items are dumped straight into the garbage bin, unused.
To avoid this unnecessary waste, the new single-use items bylaw requires that businesses provide foodware accessories such as napkins, pre-packaged condiments, straws and utensils by request only. Calgarians will need to ask for these items as needed when dining in, taking out or ordering food online.
The strategy to reduce single-use items waste also includes voluntary programs, such as encouraging businesses to provide reusable cups and serviceware for dine-in, to accept customer-provided cups and to adopt a reusable takeout container program. Some businesses like Starbucks, Eight Ounce Coffee and YYC Bubble Tea, already encourage guests to bring their own reusable cup and save a bit on their drink if they do. Dozens of Calgary restaurants have partnered with local company Earthware to provide takeout and delivery orders in reusable takeout containers that can be returned for deposit at bottle depots.
Why is the new bylaw important?
Single-use items are designed to be used only once before being thrown away. They are convenience items often provided by default whether a customer needs them or not and end up creating a staggering amount of garbage. These disposable items can be easily avoided by either choosing to refuse unneeded bags or foodware accessories or opting for reusable options instead. By doing so, Calgarians can reduce waste and keep our city clean.
How can Calgarians help?
The City is asking Calgarians to do their part to reduce single-use items waste by creating new habits. Keep your bags and other reusables like cups, straws and cutlery in a convenient place so you don’t forget to take them with you when you head out. Store them by the door, by your keys, in your car or in your purse or backpack — wherever they will be easy to grab. And, whenever possible, “skip the stuff”, go bagless and only ask for or take foodware accessories you need. Doing so will not only help local businesses save money on single-use items and packaging but also help reduce the amount of waste produced on a weekly and yearly basis.
To learn more, visit calgary.ca/singleuse.
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