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Bye-bye bag fee: Calgary repeals single-use bylaw

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A Calgary bylaw requiring businesses to charge a minimum bag fee and only provide single-use items when requested has officially been tossed.

After a brief public hearing Tuesday, councillors gave three readings to repeal the bylaw, which was first enacted in January.

Following political and public pressure, council voted in favour of starting the repeal process just two weeks after it was first enacted.

Tuesday's vote saw council vote 12-3 in favour of repealing the controversial bylaw.

"I think the message has been sent out really clearly that we're scrapping this and we're starting again," said Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian, who moved the repeal motion on Tuesday.

Under the now-repealed bylaw, rules required a minimum fee of 15-cents for paper bags, $1 for reusable bags and included requirements for food establishments to only provide napkins, cutlery and condiments when requested.

The rules end immediately.

"We do need to have a serious conversation about how we change our behaviors, because education first isn't working," said Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner, who voted against repealing the bylaw.

In speaking to businesses since the bylaw was brought into place, administration said in January that one fast food restaurant reported between 10-20 per cent of drive-thru customers were opting out of asking and paying for a paper bag.

New path forward needed

City administration will now work to bring forth recommendations for a new single-use bylaw to try to curb the amount of waste going into Calgary landfills.

The city says about 15 million single-use items go to the landfill every week. Of that, up to a million of those items are drive-thru bags.

Councillors heard Tuesday the process to come up with another plan could take at least three months, after which it will have to come back to council chambers.

"We need to get this figured out. This is an egg we need to crack in our community," said Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer.

Prior to council voting to start the repeal process, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was highly critical of the bylaw.

She even asked her minister at the time to look into whether single-use bylaws enacted by municipalities were appropriate.

"We have had to step in when we think that municipalities are going a step too far on certain issues, and I've asked my minister if he thinks that is one of those areas," Smith said in January.

Smith's UCP government has since introduced Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, which could allow the province to order municipalities to repeal or alter bylaws.

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