Alberta’s government is hoping a new deal with Canada’s major retail associations will cut down the use of plastic shopping bags instead of opting for a provincewide ban.

The deal includes a “memorandum of understanding” that would see the industry voluntarily reduce the number of plastic bags by half come 2013.

Roughly 900 million bags were used in 2008, according to provincial statistics.

The industry will also pay for costs to implement the plan and that includes offering up educational initiatives to promote the use of reusable shopping bags.

Environment Minister Rob Renner says the plan will work since it makes the retail industry “accountable” in cutting down the hundreds of millions of bags that are dumped in landfills across the province.

The industry is required to report back to the province on the program’s effectiveness annually, he said.

“This is really the way things should work,” said Renner during an announcement at West Edmonton Mall yesterday.

 

“It’s not government coming down with a giant hammer on the industry saying ‘you will do something’ and putting out rules and regulations that probably won’t work. It’s industry and government sitting down, identifying a problem, coming up with a solution and then getting to work to actually apply that solution.”

Some Alberta municipalities are already looking to implement plastic bag bans.

Fort McMurray is implementing its plastic bag bylaw in September that could see retailers pay as much as $1,000 in fines for offering up non-biodegradable plastic bags to customers.

But the Retail Council of Canada says other jurisdictions with bag bans have seen plastic bag use rise.

“There’s other parts when it comes to reducing the use of bags,” says RCC Alberta Director Peter Pilarski.

“There’s reducing it’s distribution, there’s recycling, and you can reuse plastic bags. I use plastic bags to clean up after my dog.”