Single-Use Items Bylaw Calgarians – help reduce single-use items waste

Single-use items include items such as shopping bags, utensils, straws and napkins that are made of plastic, wood, bamboo, cardboard or any other material.

Each week, Calgarians throw out over 10 million single-use items. This is a concern because:

  • These products are used once then thrown away in the garbage in large amounts, using up valuable landfill space.
  • They end up as litter in our streets, and parks or in the environment where they can harm our rivers, land and wildlife.
  • These products use significant raw materials and energy to make and dispose of for them to be used once.

The best way to reduce single-use item waste is to stop using them whenever possible or to choose reusable options.

Calgary has a new Single-Use Items Bylaw to encourage waste reduction habits from businesses and Calgarians.

Contact us

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

Supporting documents

Single-use bylaw in effect - what you need to know


The bylaw focuses on shopping bags and foodware accessories (pre-packaged condiments, napkins, straws, etc.). These are items that can easily be avoided or replaced with reusable options.

New paper and reusable shopping bags

Shopping bags are any bag used for transporting items sold or otherwise provided by a business. This includes but is not limited to bags provided for in-store, take-out, drive-thru, delivery and online ordering.

Bags will only be provided on request – either by the customer asking for these items or a staff member asking if items are needed.

New paper shopping bags – businesses must charge at least $0.15 in 2024 and increasing to $0.25 in 2025.

New reusable shopping bags – businesses must charge at least $1 in 2024 and increasing to $2 in 2025.

This applies to in-store, take-out, drive-thru and delivery orders. The bylaw does not require fees for any wrapping that is in direct contact with food, such as burger wrappers or fry boxes.

See a list of exemptions

Foodware accessories

Cutlery, condiment packets and other accessories will only be provided on request – either by the customer asking for these items or a staff member asking if items are needed.

The bylaw does not require any additional charges for foodware accessories.

This includes dine-in, take-out, drive-thru and delivery.

What you can do


Choose to refuse single-use items

  • Say “no thanks” to single-use items (plastic or otherwise)
  • Ask for items such as utensils, straws, pre-packaged condiments, napkins as needed when dining in, taking out or ordering food online.
  • Ask for bags as needed.

Choose reusables where you can

  • Bring your own reusable bag or tote to avoid the fees and reduce waste.
  • Use reusable utensils, straws, etc. instead.

Did you know?

Paper bags can be recycled, but are often not. Most end up as garbage or litter in our communities. They also require enormous resources to manufacture and  distribute.

Remember that "reduce" and "reuse" come first and cutting back on using materials means even less that needs to be recycled. 

Tips for Calgarians


New habits take time. Before you know it, bringing your own bags and other reusables will become part of your daily routine. We applaud all Calgarians efforts – big and small – to reduce single use items.

Do Build a routine

  • Choose reusable bags and other single-use items that you’ll use that are easy to clean and are easy to store.
  • Create habits. Keep your bags in a convenient place so you don’t forget to take them into the store with you. Store them by the door, by your keys, in your car or in your purse or backpack – wherever they will be easy to grab.
  • Remind yourself. Set a reminder in your phone or put a sticky note on the door. Another handy cue is put “bring reusable bags” as the first item on your shopping list.

Do Reusable bag tips

  • Skip the bag whenever practical if you forget your reusable one.
  • Keep only the number of bags that you use on a regular basis. Clear out the bags you don’t need by donating them for reuse.
  • Mend your bags when they get holes or when the seams start to come undone.
  • Make your own reusable bag from old bedroom sheets or tee shirts if you sew.
  • Use smaller reusable bags for produce.
  • For drive-thru or take-out, keep a small basket or reusable bag in your vehicle or better yet, an insulated lunch bag which will help keep your food warm during your drive.
  • For grocery or food delivery, indicate “no bags” on your order and provide instructions to deposit the order in the boxes, totes or bags you have set out.

Do Drive-thru tips

  • For drive-thru or take-out, keep a small basket or reusable bag in your vehicle or better yet, an insulated lunch bag which will help keep your food warm during your drive.
  • Help drive-thru staff by telling them at the time of order if you want a bag or not and indicate what and how many foodware accessories you need.

 

Health and Safety


Drive-thrus

  • Alberta Health Services has provided guidance to drive-thrus on food safety when customers do not take a paper bag. Drive-thru staff will use a tray or tub to hand customers their order. The customers will then take the items from the tray/tub and place items in a basket or thermal lunch bag.
  • Trays and tubs will be sanitized the same way as used for instore service.

Cleaning your reusable bags

  • Machine-wash your cloth bags frequently, especially after using them to carry fresh produce, meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Hand-wash reusable grocery bags inside out with hot soapy water if they aren't machine-washable.
  • Dry your grocery bags after washing.
  • Wash your bags, if juices from food have leaked into the bag or if it has been used to carry non-food items. See Health Canada's guidelines for keeping bags clean and free of food bacteria.
picture of a reusable cloth bag

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the minimum charges for new paper and reusable bags?

The minimum fees are:

  • New paper shopping bags - minimum fee of $0.15 in 2024 and increasing to $0.25 in 2024.
  • New reusable shopping bags - minimum fee of $1 in 2024 and increasing to $2 in 2025.

This applies to in-store, take-out, drive-thru and delivery orders. Avoid the fee for new paper and reusable bags by bringing your own bag or tote when you shop. Fees from bags will be kept by the business to help offset purchasing new paper and reusable bags.

Do the fees apply to all bags?

The minimum fees do not apply to 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 prescription drugs from a pharmacy.
  • contain or wrap meat, poultry, fish, or frozen foods.
  • wrap flowers or potted plants.

What happens to the bag fees, is it a tax?

No taxes are being collected by The City of Calgary on this. Bag fees will be kept by the business to help offset the costs of the new paper and reusable bags. We are encouraging businesses to use these fees to help support other waste reduction initiatives at their business i.e. reusable cups, plates, cutlery, and take-out container exchange programs.

Why are the bag fees kept by the businesses?

While developing the bylaw, The City heard from businesses that to meet the requirements of Calgary’s Single-use Items Bylaw and lessen the burden of the Government of Canada Single-use Plastics Regulations, it would be important for business to retain the bag fee to offset the cost of transitioning from cheap single-use plastic bags to the more expensive paper and reusable bags. 

Does the bylaw apply to paper bags at drive-thrus?

Yes. The new paper bag fee is also applicable during drive-thru orders.

Why is there a fee on paper bags, if they are recyclable?

Paper bags can be recycled but are often not. Most bags end up as garbage or litter in our communities. They also require enormous resources to manufacture and distribute. Remember that reduction is the most effective method of preventing waste and often the more cost-effective option in the long term.

What am I supposed to do about bags at the drive-thru?

  • Avoid the minimum charge for a bag by bringing your own bag to put your food in once it is handed to you. Keep a small basket or reusable bag in your vehicle or better yet, an insulated lunch bag which will help keep your food warm during your drive.
  • Request a paper bag when you place your order and pay the minimum charge.

Can I still use pet waste bags?

You can keep using pet waste bags. Pet waste bag are not in either the federal single-use plastic ban or The City’s single-use items bylaw. The federal regulations are aimed at single-use shopping and retail bags.

Remember, here in Calgary, we ask that pet waste be in a certified compostable pet waste bag before depositing into the green cart.

What can I use for a garbage bin liner?

Instead of buying plastic garbage bin liners, you can reuse other soft plastic packaging such as toilet paper overwrap, pet food bags, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, produce bags, product packaging bags, etc.

What do I do with all my reusable bags as I have too many?

Contact local charities to find out what type of reusable shopping bags are accepted. Many organizations will accept reusable shopping bags regardless of condition, the bags that cannot be reused are recycled through the textiles recycling process.

Can I recycle reusable shopping bags?

Take reusable shopping bags, even damaged ones, to any City landfill for free textile recycling. Our Throw 'N' Go bins accept a variety of textiles or contact local charities for other recycling options.

If you bring other garbage in your load, landfill charges will apply.

What if I need a plastic straw for special purposes?

The use and availability of single-use items such as flexible plastic straws are often relied upon by individuals with diverse abilities.

These flexible plastic straws will continue to be provided to those that they require them. If you do not require one as an accessibility tool, please be kind and do not ask for one.

It is important that people with disabilities or medical needs continue to have access to single-use plastic flexible straws. Retail stores (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacies and online retailers) will be able sell single-use plastic flexible straws in a package of 20 or more to a customer upon request.

If you need a plastic straw, buy a package and remember to bring one when you dine out. 

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