Canadian grocery chain Sobeys to end plastic bags by 2020

A customer leaves a Sobeys grocery store carrying plastic bags and a reusable bag in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

TORONTO (Reuters) - Grocery chain Sobeys Inc, owned by Empire Co, will eliminate all plastic bags from its stores within six months, becoming the first Canadian grocer to end use of plastic bags, the company said on Wednesday.

Sobeys, which oversees several grocery store brands operating nationwide including IGA and Safeway, said the move will take 225 million plastic bags out of circulation at their 255 Canadian locations each year.

“So many of our customers and our employees have told us loud and clear - they want us to use less plastic - and we agree with them,” Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire, said in a news release.

“We decided to act now instead of taking years to study and only make long-term commitments.”

The move to reduce the use of plastic bags and certain other single-use plastic products is part of a trend in many countries aimed at reducing plastic pollution.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June announced plans to ban by early 2021 some single-use plastics such as straws, bags and cutlery.

Less than 10% of plastic used in Canada is recycled, according to the government release at the time.

Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Will Dunham