What businesses need to know about single-use items

Single-Use items Bylaw Get your business ready

Calgary’s Single-Use Items Bylaw will reduce waste by targeting items that can easily be replaced with reusable options or avoided altogether.

The bylaw applies to any businesses providing new paper or reusable shopping bags and/or foodware accessories to customers including grocery or convenience stores, retail stores, fast food, restaurants, cafes, bars and coffee shops.

Contact us

If you have questions regarding the bylaw or the repeal, fill out the online service request below or contact 311.

Supporting documents

General bylaw FAQ

Why does The City need a single-use items reduction strategy?

There is increasing public and business interest in decreasing waste from single-use items. It is important to reduce the negative life-cycle environmental impacts of single-use items. Producing, using and disposing these items uses up natural resources, and causes harm to our water bodies, ecosystems and wildlife.


Are drive thrus and take-away restaurants required to comply with the bylaw requirements?

Yes, drive thrus and take-away restaurants must comply. Businesses must:

  • Charge the minimum fee for new paper or new reusable shopping bags.
  • Provide new paper or new reusable shopping bags by request only.
  • Provide foodware accessories by request only.

Are food delivery and grocery delivery services required to comply with the bylaw requirements?

Yes, food delivery and grocery delivery services must comply. Businesses must:

  • Charge the minimum fee for new paper or new reusable shopping bags.
  • Provide new paper or new reusable shopping bags by request only.
  • Provide foodware accessories by request only.

I am an event organizer, or my business participates in events or festivals. How does the bylaw affect me?

Vendors at festivals, special events and markets are required to follow the same requirements.

  • New paper or reusable shopping bags can only be provided by request only. Businesses are required to charge a mandatory minimum fee. 
  • Foodware accessories can only be provided by request only.

Do charities and not-for-profit organizations have to comply with the Single-use Items bylaw requirements?

The bylaw applies to any business – including charities and not-for-profit organizations providing new paper or reusable shopping bags and/or foodware accessories to customers.

Registered charities providing charitable services are exempt from the bylaw requirements if providing a shopping bag or foodware accessories as part of a charitable service. A “charitable service” means the provision of food, prepared food, clothing, or personal items for free or at low cost by a charitable organization.

A “charitable organization” means a business with a valid and subsisting registration with the Province of Alberta as a charitable organization pursuant to the Charitable Fundraising Act RSA 2000, c. C-9, or with the Canada Revenue Agency as a charity.

Examples where the Single-Use Items Bylaw would apply for a charity or not-for-profit organization:

  • A farmers’ market that is a registered charity with various food and retail vendors using new paper or reusable shopping bags or foodware accessories.
  • A registered charity operating a retail store is required to charge the minimum mandatory fee on new paper or reusable shopping bags and to only provide shopping bags when customers request them.
  • A community association that is a registered charity hosting a pub night or other event where foodware accessories are available. These foodware accessories can only be provided “by request.”

What types of bags are exempt from the bylaw?

The following types of shopping bags are exempt, minimum fees are not required:

  • Small paper bags (400 sq cm or less when laid flat).
  • Bags used to:
    • package bulk items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, candy, or dry goods.
    • package loose bulk items such as hardware or fasteners.
    • protect bakery goods that are not prepackaged.
    • protect items from becoming dirty or unusable (e.g., newspaper bag, dry cleaning, flowers).
    • package goods from a pharmacy.
    • package prescription drugs from a pharmacy.
    • wrap flowers or potted plants.
  • Shopping bags that have already been used by a customer and returned to a business for the purpose of being reused by other customers.

What if my business doesn’t comply with the bylaw?

The City will use an education first approach to help businesses understand the requirements and how to comply. After providing the opportunity to make changes, if a business is still not in compliance, the business owner(s) will be subject to inspection by a Bylaw Enforcement Officer, who may issue a violation ticket or fine.

As a business, is it my responsibility to enforce the bylaw requirements with customers?

It is the responsibility of businesses to comply with the requirements of the bylaw.

What alternatives do businesses have for single-use items?

We encourage businesses to source reusable alternatives or single-use items that can be recycled or composted in the Calgary residential programs. Learn more at Suggested Alternatives Guide and use our What Goes Where? tool.

Are compostable plastic items accepted in residential recycling and composting programs?

Certified compostable plastic shopping bags and bin liners are accepted in residential composting programs.

Other plastic items like cups, cutlery and containers labeled or described as "compostable" or "degradable" are not accepted in Calgary’s residential recycling and composting programs. These items do not break down fully at the Calgary Composting Facility and are not recyclable. Once they reach people’s homes, they must be discarded as garbage.

Are reusable items COVID-safe?

Studies have shown that the risk of COVID-19 transmission from objects is low. 

While reusables are preferred, every business is allowed to make its own decision on the use of reusable items. For customers who do not wish to use reusable shopping bags, single-use paper bags may be available, and other single-use items such as utensils, cups and takeout containers may also continue to be available. For example, customers shouldn’t necessarily expect that businesses will all provide paper bags. Some businesses may choose not to.

How is the Government of Canada’s Single-Use Items approach different?

Calgary’s plan to reduce single-use items is in alignment with the Government of Canada’s approach and our proposed bylaw and voluntary measures emphasize waste reduction rather than replacing plastics with other materials. 

The Government of Canada published regulations to prohibit six categories of single-use plastics including: checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware that contains expanded or extruded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black or an oxo-degradable plastic, ring carriers, stir sticks; and straws (with exemptions). 

The ban on the manufacture and import of these single-use plastics (with a few exceptions) will come into effect in December 2022. The sale and provision of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023. The Government will also prohibit the export of plastics in the six categories by the end of 2025.

For more information, visit Fact sheet: Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations.

What do I do with extra plastic bags?

Businesses with extra plastic bag stock can try and donate them to a charity that might be able to use them. Or recycle them as per your business (hauler) recycling requirements.