Thompson Rivers University

Local plastic bag research with global implications

October 3, 2019

Elizabeth Awadey

Elizabeth Awadey has more than a passing interest in a Kamloops bylaw to reduce the number of plastic bags distributed at checkouts and tills.

As part of her research requirements to complete her Master of Science in Environmental Economics and Management (MScEEM), Awadey, who graduated in August, conducted a study looking at whether a five-cent charge for plastic bags at grocery store checkouts was a deterrent or not at two grocery stores. Supervising her on the project was economics faculty member Laura Lamb and Belayet Hossain.

With permission from two grocery chains in Kamloops—one that charges five cents for each bag and another that doesn’t—she observed from a distance 765 customers as they went through the cashier. She observed 387 at Sahali Safeway and 378 at Real Canadian Superstore. Those choosing to carry their groceries out in their hands, or in shopping carts without bags, were counted as using their own bags.

“What really stood out for me was that of the people I observed, only 18 per cent used reusable bags, which was a really small percentage of people. At the end of the day, the five-cent charge appears not to be enough to make a difference.”

She has worked in retail in Kamloops and there were times when the store ran out of plastic bags. While inconvenienced and perhaps annoyed, shoppers adapted to the situation.

“It will be interesting to observe the reaction of shoppers and to see the impact the bylaw has on shopping behaviour,” Awadey said.

The bylaw is expected to be introduced in spring 2020.

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