About The Project

The City of Calgary is developing a Single-Use Items Waste Reduction Strategy. Single-use items include plastic and paper shopping bags, take-out food and beverage containers, plastic straws, plastic utensils and cups; paper coffee and fountain drink cups; plastic drink lids, coffee stirrers, coffee stoppers; and polystyrene foam cups and containers.

This action plan will help us decide the best ways to reduce the amount of these items going to our landfills.

Reducing waste from single-use items would:

  • Reduce the amount of material sent to landfill
  • Reduce contamination of our recycled and composted materials
  • Reduce the amount of these items managed through our public waste collection and litter programs
  • Reduce litter from these items in our environment
  • Support our vision to lead the community towards zero waste

There are many options and consequences to consider to find the best solution for keeping these items out of the landfill.

FAQs

What are single-use items?

These are convenience items used once before being thrown away, and for which alternatives are available. These items include plastic bags, disposable cups, disposable utensils, take-out containers, plastic straws.

Why is waste from single-use items a concern?

Single-use items are convenient but have an impact on our environment as these items often end up as litter or in our landfills, and can take thousands of years to break down.

Could our recycling facilities be changed to process single-use items?

It is very difficult to sort some of these single-use items with existing technology because some of them are too small and lightweight. Also, these items are mostly made of mixed materials which makes them expensive and difficult to separate. Our recycling facilities use a combination of technology and manual labor to sort items. There is no simple fix for addressing these challenging items within our recycling facility.

Why is plastic used to make so many single-use items?

Plastic is inexpensive and easy to manipulate for many uses, so it’s a popular choice for manufacturing a wide variety of things. Plastic also has positive attributes such as prolonging the life of food products with protective barriers against bacteria and water.

What is waste diversion?

Diverting waste from landfills means recycling, composting or reusing items instead of throwing them in the garbage. By reducing the amount and type of materials that end up in landfills, our landfills last longer and natural resources are conserved.

Our goal is to divert 70 per cent of waste from City landfills in all sectors, including residential, businesses and organizations, construction and demolition by 2025.

Will single-use items be banned in Calgary?

At this time, Calgary is considering whether or not to develop programs to reduce single-use items. If approved by Council, The City will work with citizens, businesses and organizations across Calgary to develop programs that fit our local environment. Feedback from citizens, businesses and organizations as well as experience from other regions around the world, will be considered when developing a program for Calgary. There are many challenges as well as options for this issue, so it is important to provide your input and be sure your voice is heard.

More Information

Single-use items are great for convenience but have an impact on our environment as these items often end up in our landfills or litter our land and water and can take thousands of years to break down. It is estimated that disposable (single-use) items account for about half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced around the world each year. Further, only 10 – 13 percent of plastic items are recycled worldwide.

While some of these single-use items are accepted in our recycling programs, they are hard to recycle because:

  • They are often not prepared properly for recycling (i.e. clean and bundled).
  • They are too small and lightweight to be processed properly in our recycling facilities
  • They are mostly made of mixed materials which makes them expensive and very difficult to separate

We use most of these items once and then throw them away, contributing to garbage in our landfills, or litter in our environment.

Some businesses and Calgarians have already taken steps proactively to reduce their use of single-use items, and The City is conducting preliminary investigation into possible strategies for reducing waste from single-use items.

Reducing waste from single-use items would:

  • Reduce the amount of material sent to landfill
  • Reduce contamination of our recycled and composted materials
  • Reduce the amount of these items managed through our public waste collection and litter programs
  • Reduce litter from these items in our environment
  • Support our vision to lead the community towards zero waste

What are other locations doing?

Jurisdictions around the world and in Canada have developed strategies to reduce waste from single-use items. These range from campaigns encouraging consumers to choose products and services made sustainably, to fees and even bans. Vancouver recently passed a single-use items reduction strategy that will be implemented over the next few years, while The City of Victoria recently banned plastic bags. In Alberta, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has had a ban on plastic bags since 2010.

Some countries, like Taiwan and New Zealand, are phasing in full bans on specific items such as plastic straws and cups, and plastic bags. Currently, the United Kingdom requires businesses to charge a fee for plastic bags.

YOUR INPUT

In phase one, citizens, businesses and organizations had the opportunity to help chart the way forward in developing a Single-use Items Waste Reduction Strategy for Calgary. Your feedback and perceptions of single-use items helped outline the recommendations for investigating this issue further. Your input was used to create themes and these are included in the What we Heard report that is in the Links section on the right of this page. All verbatim comments are included in a separate report on the right of this page as well.

Using the themes from phase one, further engagement was held with students attending the 2019 Mayor’s Environment Expo. Feedback from this engagement is also included in the Links section.

Thank you for providing your feedback!



NEXT STEPS

A few weeks after beginning phase two engagement for The City’s Single-Use Items Waste Reduction Strategy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Government of Canada will ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021. This may include items that we are currently looking at reduction options for in Calgary. Input from Calgary’s two rounds of engagement will be combined with recommendations from the Federal Government to develop a draft Single-Use Items Waste Reduction Strategy for Calgary. We will be seeking feedback on the draft strategy in early 2020 before presenting to the Standing Policy Committee on Utilities & Corporate Services Committee and City Council in Spring 2020.