Doug Ford and the LCBO brown paper bags

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| Published , updated April 23, 2024

On April 8, 2024 Premier Doug Ford sent a letter to LCBO’s president and CEO directing them to reintroduce paper bags:

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.

This change has left people stuck openly carrying alcohol in public when leaving a LCBO store.

people expect Crown corporations to “refrain from imposing additional and unnecessary burdens on them.”

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.

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.

Premier Doug Ford’s letter to the LCBO

Let’s address each claimed benefit one at a time.

In the letter, Premier Ford points to the following reasons:

  1. Reducing costs/making it more affordable by providing “free paper bags”
  2. Stuck openly carrying alcohol in public
  3. Environmental benefits are “questionable”

1. Will it save customers money?

Claim: Ontario’s Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said that consumers would save money:

(The cost) is not going to be put on the backs of consumers at the LCBO

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy

Fact check: “free” bags are not free and handing out single use bags will make products more expensive

Ultimately, the cost of the bags is part of the LCBO’s overhead and recovered in the price of the products they sell. In calculating the expenses and market for their products, the LCBO’s in-store cost of service expense offsets the cost of retailing the product in a brick-and-mortar or online store according to an LCBO spokesperson, which would presumably include supplies such as brown paper bags.

The cost of the 135 million paper bags handed out annually is factored in to the price of their products:

This move would cost the LCBO money, which would be either be:

  1. Passed onto the customer in higher prices at the LCBO, or
  2. Decrease LCBO net income, meaning less going to the Government of Ontario in the form of an annual dividend to help fund key local and provincial public programs and services including health care, education, and infrastructure.

2. Are reusable bags more environmentally friendly than plastic and paper bags?

Claim: Premier Ford said the environmental benefits of eliminating the use of paper bags are “questionable”.

The LCBO currently provides eight-pack carriers and boxes when available. It also sells reusable bags for $1.25 for a bag to carry 2 bottles, or $2.95 for one to carry 6 and a four-pocket organic cotton bag for $14.95.

Fact check: reusable bags are more environmentally friendly than single use bags if they at least a certain number of times

Life cycle studies done in Europe and North America have determined that, overall, plastic bags are better for the environment than paper or reusable bags unless the latter are used many times. Most, however, did not consider the problem of litter, which we know is a major drawback of plastic bags.

Ultimately, the single use of any bag is the worst possible choice. The key to reducing your environmental impact is to use whatever bags you have around the house as many times and in as many ways as possible.

Columbia University – Climate School (2020)

A 2018 study Life Cycle Assessment of grocery carrier bags by Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment and Food found that reusable plastic bags have to be reused 8 times to be have lower climate impact than a plastic shopping bag, and 84 times to be better on all environmental indicators.

Reduce, reuse, then recycle, in that order

Using less is always better than relying on recycling, which is never 100% efficient.

Comment
byu/TradeFeisty from discussion
intoronto

3. Is someone openly carrying alcohol in public “stuck”?

It may feel awkward walking out with booze after years of conditioning to have it hidden, but everyone knows what’s in the brown paper bag with the “LCBO” logo printed on the side.

Openly carrying alcohol in public does carry a stigma – if one lived in 1955.

Glenn Parsons Guelph, Ont.

Reactions

I don’t know where he’s decided that’s the big priority

Every time I’ve ever been to the LCBO and I don’t have my shopping bag, I find the boxes quite handy.

NDP leader Marit Stiles

What company supplied the brown paper bags to the LCBO in 2023?

RFQ 2017-733-056 Supply and Delivery of Paper Bags was awarded in 2017, no details are available on Biddingo.com

What company will supply brown paper bags to the LCBO in 2024?

The request for bids Supply and Delivery of for Customer Purchases has been posted to Biddingo.

[Will reach out to the LCBO/file a Freedom of Information request once the procurement process is complete.]

Summary

This move will have a (small) negative for you, if you:

  • Have a reusable bag that you use at the LCBO
  • Are happy to use the eight-pack carriers and boxes
  • Don’t buy a lot at a time and are fine with carrying out your purchases with your bare hands

This move was good if you:

  • Are mildly inconvenienced by forgetting to put your reusable bags in the car and bring them with you into the LCBO
  • Don’t use reusable bags, the eight-pack carriers or boxes
  • Feeling awkward while open carrying alcohol and prefer it to be hidden in a branded paper bag

Timeline

April 8, 2024 – Premier Doug Ford sends a letter to LCBO’s president and CEO directing them to reintroduce paper bags

The LCBO currently provides eight-pack carriers and boxes when available. It also sells reusable bags for $1.25 for a bag to carry 2 bottles, or $2.95 for one to carry 6 and a four-pocket organic cotton bag for $14.95.

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.

people expect Crown corporations to “refrain from imposing additional and unnecessary burdens on them.”

saying the environmental merits are “questionable at best,” considering they are recyclable.

Premier Doug Ford’s letter to the LCBO

September 5, 2023 – Paper bags are no longer available

April 27, 2023 – LCBO announces that it would start phasing out paper bags

Remove almost 135 million paper bags annually from LCBO retail stores and convenience outlets; diverting 2,665 tonnes of waste from landfill and saving the equivalent of more than 188,000 trees every year.

Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bag when shopping in-store. Alternatively, they will have the option to purchase a reusable bag or request a re-used cardboard box or an 8-pack carrier at no cost.

LCBO

This move would also save them money, which would be either:

  1. Savings passed to the customer in lower prices at the LCBO, or
  2. Increase LCBO net income, which goes to the Government of Ontario in the form of an annual dividend, which helps fund key local and provincial public programs and services including health care, education, and infrastructure.

2008 – LCBO stops providing plastic bags

Instead providing cardboard boxes and paper bags instead and encouraging customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags.

The LCBO used 80 million plastic bags per year in 2007.

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association said banning plastic shopping bags at the LCBO is a bad environmental decision “based on politics rather than scientific fact,” and claimed that new plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than paper bags.

CTV News

The manufacture of paper bags is more energy intensive, requiring 2.2 times more non-renewable energy than plastic shopping bags, using 4.7 times more water and emitting 3.1 times more greenhouse gases

Canadian Plastics Industry Association

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