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Shoppers respond to first day of Sobeys’ change to reusable bags

‘I wasn’t prepared at all’: Everyone knew, but only some brought their bags

3 min read
caption MacKayla Williams (right) and Maddy Nugent (left) came prepared for Sobeys' switch from plastic to reusable bags.
Kate Woods

Sobeys is now plastic bag-free.

The Signal spoke with around 20 shoppers on Friday, the first day of a bag-less Sobeys. While all of them knew about the change before it happened, only half of them brought their own bags.

Philip Mahar, a shopper at the Queen Street Sobeys in Halifax, said he’s going to put a note on his fridge to remind him to keep his bags with him.

caption Philip Mahar, poses next to his cart of groceries in his new reusable Sobeys bags.
Kate Woods

He bought a few reusable bags before his grocery trip. Although he forgot them at home, having to buy more didn’t bother him.

“Any change for the environment,” said Mahar.

The average plastic bag is used for 12 minutes, but takes 500 years to decompose, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an American non-profit environmental organization.

After surveying two Halifax Sobeys locations, results were mixed when it comes to the level of preparedness among shoppers.

“I wasn’t prepared at all,” said Jody-Ann Johnson, who bought a paper bag for her goods.

“I had to put the paper bag in my personal bag because I was kind of afraid things might break through the bottom,” she said, although she added the change doesn’t bother her at all.

In a news release, Sobeys said the change to reusable bags will take 225 million plastic bags out of circulation each year. This is enough bags to wrap around the world twice. 

The stores now offer three options when it comes to the size and price of their bags: 10 cents for a paper bag, 25 cents for a small reusable bag and 99 cents for a large reusable bag. For every paper bag sold, the company plans on donating a portion of the revenue to plant trees in Canada.

Sobeys also plans on taking the plastic bags out of other stores they own, like Safeway, FreshCo, and Foodland.

“This is a significant first step, but it’s only a first step. We need to go further, and we will,” Michael Medline, president and CEO for Sobeys parent company Empire, said in a July 31, 2019 press release.

Many people who spoke with The Signal are happy for the change, with several crediting their excitement to helping the environment. 

“I think it’s necessary for the environment,” said Sherry Jackson-Smith, a shopper at the Windsor Street Sobeys. 

“I mean, it was an inconvenience this morning because I wasn’t prepared and I had to buy more, but other than that it makes sense.”

Those who remembered to bring their bags said they have plenty of practice, to the point of having developed it as a habit. 

“I’ve been using recyclable bags for years,” shopper Denise King said outside of the Sobeys on Queen Street.

Some, like Kathrine Burt, keep their bags in the trunk of their cars for easy access. She went  to Sobey’s to get a smaller reusable bag to add to her collection. 

Shopper Anne MacDonald said there was one drawback. 

“I use the Sobeys bags for garbage, but that’s ok, I can live with it,” she said. 


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About the author

Kate Woods

Kate Woods is a journalism student living in Halifax, originally from Coldbrook, a small village in the valley. She loves books and hearing people...

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