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Paper bags for alcohol purchases will soon be offered again at Ontario liquor stores after Premier Doug Ford compelled the Crown corporation to reverse its earlier environmentally friendly initiative.

As part of its commitment to minimize the impact on the environment, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stopped offering paper bags to customers in September 2023. The corporation said the initiative aimed to remove almost 135 million paper bags annually from LCBO retail stores and convenience outlets. The plan would have diverted 2,665 tonnes of waste from landfills and saved the equivalent of more than 188,000 trees every year.

In a brief email statement sent Monday to Canada’s National Observer, the LCBO said it has received direction from the provincial government to reintroduce single-use paper bags at its retail locations and will begin taking the necessary steps to do so.

“While we are unable to confirm when paper bags will be available again, we will share more details with our valued customers in the coming weeks.”

Ford explained his government’s decision to reverse the paper bag policy, saying: “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,” in a letter to the LCBO president and CEO, shared with Canada’s National Observer by the premier's office. “This change has left people stuck openly carrying alcohol in public when leaving an LCBO store.”

Ford also questioned the environmental benefits of the LCBO's decision to replace paper bags with reusables. “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.”

The move comes as a new poll shows that most Canadians support a crackdown on single-use plastics and reduced plastic production.

Ford said it is understandable that people expect their government, and by extension, Crown corporations like the LCBO, to be mindful of these costs and to avoid imposing additional and “unnecessary” burdens on them. “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.”

The LCBO is responsible for retailing and distributing alcoholic beverages throughout Ontario, offering more than 28,000 items annually sourced from over 80 countries to consumers.

Paper bags for alcohol purchases will soon be offered again at Ontario liquor stores after Premier Doug Ford compelled the Crown corporation to reverse its earlier environmentally friendly initiative. #LCBO #PaperBags #ReusableBags

— With a file from Natasha Bulowski / Canada's National Observer.

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To flip-flop on this change is ridiculous. According to the premier he is motivated by the added cost of purchasing a reusable bag (customers can bring their own) and how those who can’t afford the bags are leaving LCBO stores carrying bottles of booze; oh the horror and embarrassment which is different from those who exit beer stores carrying cases of beer with
the brand logo on all side of the box?
The LCBO stated in their press release a year ago that this move would save 188,000 trees per year. Industry claims that a 20 year old tree produces about 700 paper bags. As the LCBO uses 135,000,000 per year the math tracks.
What leader of a province chooses the embarrassment of carrying liquor bottles in a parking lot versus the cutting of 188,000 trees/yr?

If the premier wants to reduce embarrassment for the residents of ON, then perhaps he’d consider what many experience daily by waiting in an ON ER sitting in a chair with sever abdominal pain as there are no stretchers available to lay on; to be in the hallway in pain while people pass by or are sitting next to you and being interviewed by the attending physician who is quietly trying to get your story while also trying to assess you? Questions about your last bowel movements, any blood or mucus in the stool, when was your last period, any risk of pregnancy, recent weight loss or gain, any history of abdominal or gynaecological surgery, on an on.

Carrying some bottles of booze from the LCBO to your car simply doesn’t compare. The residents of ON will pay far more for hospital parking during their ER visit than the cost of an LCBO bag.

This is not leadership!

I've flipped on this; I think we went down the wrong road. The plastic isn't recycled. Maybe it's recyclable, but it isn't. Paper is. The trees grow back; paper can be an agricultural crop like wheat, save the crop harvests are 20 years apart.

Of all the things to fight Doug Ford on, this is near-bottom priority until somebody shows me the figures on sustainability; the "do my own research" effort found both answers. Coming from Alberta, where poplars grow back like grass, rapidly, it's hard to fear pulp-and-paper-based deforestation.

There was this uproar when Ralph Klein sold off a huge swath of Alberta to Japanese pulp-and-paper firms in the nineties, we thought it would be mowed down. It's fine. They've probably harvested some of those hectares a second time by now, the poplars grew back so fast.

I'd observe that paper bags don't remove anything from landfill. Paper bags *are* recyled. But cutting down trees to make paper bags is simply wrong-headed. We have a problem in Canada with dying forests that are themselves thus net carbon emitters. We need all the trees we can get, and to keep all we have. The only allowed uses for tree products should be in buildings made to last, where at least they serve as ongoing carbon sinks. New trees don't produce oxygen or store carbon at the rates mature trees do, and it takes decades for the trees to mature -- and then we cut'em down and go again. Or at least, that's what we've done so far.

New tree plantations don't restore the eco-systems that trees depend on to produce all their "climate services" for us, especially if they were clear-cut and burned. The small creatures in the soil, once re-introduced, travel at rates measured in feet per century. It's a losing proposition.

Canada needs to get over its identity as resource extractors, and that cannot happen until we develop a truly circular economy.

Given that most people seem to pay for booze with credit or debit cards, there's no reason at all why they can't be loaded with entitlement to a couple of bags at a minimal charge, and the stores to replace them for free when they break down. I replaced a couple of large, recycled grocery store bags for free just this past year, after more than 10 years' use. If I'm not mistaken, I paid $1 or $2 for them at the outset ... and I consider that to have been a very good investment.

I think, push come to shove, people want to "save the trees", "save the climate" and be "good citizens." But they are, overall, lazy when it comes to making that happen. That's a clear way to make it relatively easy and painless.