Sobeys’ decision to discontinue plastic bags the right move: members

“It’s a smart move, and a long time coming.” That’s what UFCW 1518 member Sartaj Birring had to say about Sobeys announcement that it will no longer offer plastic grocery bags across all banners. Starting in January, 2020 Sobeys, parent company of Safeway, will cease distributing plastic bags to customers in its 225 locations in an effort to be more environmentally sustainable.

“There’s a shift in how customers are approaching their shopping. There are a lot more people who are refusing plastic bags and using resuable bags,” said Birring, a cashier at the Safeway in New Westminster. “This is something that customers want so the company making that shift is really positive,”

Amit Mohindroo, a UFCW 1518 member who works at the Safeway on Robson St. in downtown Vancouver, agreed: “Plastic bags cost money and they harm the environment.” He said that increasingly, customers are more environmentally conscious about their shopping habits. “I’d say about 75 percent of the customers at my store bring reusable bags. Sometimes they just carry their groceries in their hands! Or if they forget their reusable bags, they will buy new ones.” He adds: “As cashier, I always ask my customers if they want plastic bags. People usually say no. They don’t like plastic.”

Both Birring and Mohindroo said they are happy to work for an employer who shares their values regarding environmental protection and sustainability. “We all have a responsibility to take care of our earth,” Birring said. “I’m mindful of the kind of stuff I buy and the waste that I put in my garbage. I look at the packaging, and if they’re double wrapped in plastic, I don’t buy them.”

President Kim Novak welcomed the decision by Sobeys to phase out plastic grocery bags. “It is an environmentally sound move and wise, given the push by cities and provinces to ban single use plastics.”

According to Sobeys, discontinuing the distribution of plastic bags from all its locations will eventually remove more than 800 million bags from circulation. The company said paper bags will be made available, and that this decision will not increase the cost of groceries.