Single use items

Reducing single-use items

Single-use items such as shopping bags, straws, utensils, napkins, and disposable cups are designed to be used only once before being thrown away. They are convenience items that are part of our daily routines.

Each week in Calgary, the following single-use items are thrown in the garbage.

3.5 million plastic shopping bags

6.4 million plastic utensils

2.4 million cups

2.4 million takeout containers

This is a staggering amount of waste. There is an opportunity to rethink our need for single-use items to prevent the creation of waste in the first place.

Producing, using and disposing of single-use items uses valuable resources and has negative environmental impacts.

We would like to help residents and businesses reduce the number of single-use items they use.

Calgary’s single-use items reduction strategy

The City’s Single-use Item Reduction Strategy focuses on reducing single-use items, made from all types of materials, not just plastics. Our strategy emphasizes preventing and reducing waste and promoting reusables. That’s why The City’s proposed strategy includes both bylaws and voluntary programs to encourage waste reduction.


Bylaw

Reusable and paper bags

Setting a minimum mandatory fee for paper shopping bags and new reusable shopping bags.


Bylaw

Foodware accessories

Making these items available by request only (utensils, straws, stir sticks, pre-packaged condiments, napkins, etc.)


Voluntary measure

Food serviceware

Encouraging  businesses to adopt reusable takeout containers programs and use locally recyclable or compostable takeout containers.


Voluntary measure

Reusable cups

Encouraging businesses to utilize reusable cups for dine-in, adopt reusable cup share programs, and use locally recyclable or compostable single-use cups.

What happens next?

Tips to reduce single-use items

Taking action together can reduce waste from single-use items.

Foodware accessories

Utensils, straws, stir sticks, pre-packaged condiments, napkins, etc.

Businesses:

  • Ask your customers if they require any foodware accessories like utentils, condiments and napkins rather than automatically including them with their order.
  • Add an option to your online platforms so customers can request foodware accessories that they need when they order. 

Calgarians:

  • Say “no thanks” to single-use items when they are offered.
  • Only accept single-use items if you require them.
  • If ordering online, specify items that you don’t need.
  • Carry a fork, spoon, cloth napkin, and reusable straw in your bag.

Take-out containers and cups

Businesses:

  • Encourage customers to bring a reusable beverage cup or takeout container for food, drink, and other products. 
  • Provide reusable cups and containers for dining in. 
  • Consider participating in a reusable cup or container sharing program. 
  • Replace single-use containers or cups with alternatives that are acceptable in Calgary's residential recycling and composting programs.

Calgarians:

  • Bring your own reusable container or travel mug. 
  • Bring containers when dining out in case you have leftovers. 
  • Ask restaurants if they participate in a reusable cup or container sharing program. 
  • Ask for a reusable cup or dish when dining in. 

Shopping Bags

Businesses:

  • Encourage customers to bring a reusable bag.
  • At the checkout, re-use product boxes (e.g., banana boxes) for customers.

Calgarians:

  • Bring your own reusable bag or tote.

Frequently asked questions

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. 

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 of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023 to allow businesses time to get rid of existing stock and transition to alternatives. 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 alternatives do businesses have for plastic single-use items?

We encourage businesses to source reusable alternatives or single-use packaging 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. Customers shouldn’t necessarily expect that businesses will all provide paper bags, for example. Some businesses may choose not to.

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