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SINGLE-USE ITEMS REDUCTION STRATEGY 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.

Contact us

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

Supporting documents

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 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.

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

Why is a store still charging for shopping bags?

While the City Single-Use Items Bylaw is no longer in effect, some businesses may choose to voluntarily apply a fee for new paper shopping bags or reusable bags to encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags. 

Why am I being charged for other foodware accessories?

The recently repealed Single-Use Items Bylaw did not require businesses to charge for foodware accessories (such as pre-packaged condiments, takeout boxes, coffee cups, etc.). Businesses may apply a fee to these items as part of their business operations.

Will stores be able to use plastic bags again?

With the City’s bylaw being repealed, it does not mean that businesses will be able to use plastic bags, cutlery or straws as those items still fall under the Government of Canada’s Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. The regulations ban the manufacture of plastic shopping bags, plastic straws, stir sticks, utensils, foam cups, and other types of plastics that are difficult to recycle.

I thought the federal plastics ban was overturned. What is happening?

In November 2023, the Federal Court issued a ruling overturning the federal government’s Ministerial Order designating all plastic manufactured items to be “toxic substances” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This ruling has raised questions about the federal Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations; however, the regulations are still in effect. Businesses who manufacture, distribute, sell, supply or use the six categories of single-use plastic products should continue to comply with the regulations and not make any changes to their existing plans.

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.