Doug Ford tells LCBO to reverse course and bring back paper bags

Premier tells LCBO executives to bring back paper bags as soon as possible.

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Bring back the paper bags!

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That’s the message from Ontario Premier Doug Ford to the LCBO. Ford has written to LCBO President and CEO George Soleas, telling him to reverser course on his bag policy.

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The LCBO announced they were phasing out paper bags last August, instead only offering customers the chance to buy recyclable bags or bring their own.

“This initiative will help to minimize our impact on the environment and create a more sustainable Ontario,” the government agency said in a statement.

Environmental concerns or not, Ford wants the policy reversed.

“I’m requesting that you take immediate steps to reverse the decision to remove paper bags from the LCBO’s retail locations,” Ford wrote.

“At a time when many Ontario families are already struggling to make ends meet, every additional expense counts. That includes charging customers for reusable bags instead of the free paper bags that the LCBO previously offered.”

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Those reusable bags the LCBO sells go for $1.25 for a bag to carry two bottles, or $2.95 for one to carry six. They also sell a four-pocket organic cotton bag for $14.95 which is not overly affordable, nor is it environmentally friendly.

A man holds a paper LCBO bag on Aug. 22, 2023. (Postmedia News)
A man holds a paper LCBO bag on Aug. 22, 2023. (Postmedia News)

For Ford, his call for the LCBO to bring back paper bags is mostly about affordability.

“People rightly expect their government – and, by extension, crown corporations such as the LCBO – to be mindful of these costs and refrain from imposing additional and unnecessary burdens on them,” Ford said.

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He’s right, I just wish it hadn’t taken him seven months to tell the LCBO they were on the wrong track.

The bags the LCBO now sells are made from plastic, recycled water bottles, but aren’t recyclable themselves unlike the old paper bags — a point Ford makes in his letter.

“Moreover, the environmental merits of this decision are questionable at best. Paper bags are an easily recyclable alternative to single-use plastic, which is why the LCBO adopted them in the first place,” Ford wrote.

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A study by Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment and Food found the kind of plastic bags the LCBO is selling would have to be reused eight times to be better than a plastic shopping bag when it comes to climate change. However, the LCBO’s plastic bags would need to be used 84 times to be better on all environmental indicators.

That organic cotton bag they are selling would need to be used a whopping 20,000 times to be better than plastic when all environmental factors are considered.

Except, that’s comparing the reusable bags to plastic bags, whereas the LCBO was previously using paper – an easily recycled product. It’s been well documented that we now have a glut of reusable plastic bags in the world, leading many to question whether this is helping or hurting.

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We all want a cleaner environment; I don’t know a single person who wants to be polluting, but we aren’t always smart about policy. This LCBO policy was an attempt by the government agency to look like a good corporate steward, a leader in environmental and sustainability goals.

It hasn’t worked out that way and it has definitely inconvenienced consumers.

“As a government, we are focused on making life easier, more convenient, and more affordable for the people of Ontario. The decision to remove paper bags has had the opposite effect,” Ford wrote to Soleas.

What will be interesting to find out is how much money the LCBO has been making off the plastic bags they have been selling. The paper bags were obviously a cost to them, the plastic ones a potential profit centre.

I’ll still take my reusable bag with me when I plan a trip, but I’ll also welcome the return of the paper bags for those times when I pop into the LCBO unexpectedly.

This is a common sense move, and a welcome one.

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