reusable bag

Single-use Retail Bag Program

FAQ - Single-use Retail Bag Program

What is a single-use retail bag?

Single-use retail bags are paper, plastic or biodegradable bags used to carry purchases from a store.  Plastic or paper carrier bags, boutique bags, biodegradable bags, and paper gift bags are all considered single-use retail bags.

The program does not include:

  • Bags used inside stores for unpackaged bulk items like produce, bakery, candy and small hardware items.
  • Bags for prescription drugs, dry cleaning and primary packaging of prepared food.

How does the Single-use Retail Bag Program work?

Since February 1, 2011, all paper, plastic and biodegradable bag cost 25 cents in all Northwest Territories (NWT) stores. (The fee should appear on the customer’s receipt.)

The retail store pays the distributor 25¢ for every paper, plastic or biodegradable bag they receive from the distributor.

The distributor pays the Environment Fund 25¢ for each bag provided to NWT stores.

All retailers and distributors must register with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).

Why 25¢?

Studies have shown when a bag costs 5 or 10 cents, there is an initial drop in consumption, but after some time consumers absorb the additional price into their everyday expenses and begin paying for bags.

A 25 cent environmental fee will ensure consumers don't become accustomed to the fee and begin purchasing bags.

Residents will only have to pay the fee if they don't bring their reusable bags.

Who is included in the program?

All NWT retail stores are included in the program. This includes, for example, clothing stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, hair salons and florists. Restaurants are not included in the program.

Where does the 25¢ environmental fee go?

Distributors remit the surcharges they collect from NWT stores to the Environment Fund.

The Environment Fund is a special purpose fund set up under the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act (Act). This fund is used to cover program expenses and help create new waste reduction and recovery programs.

If the program is successful, there should be very little revenue and a lot fewer bags littering the land and communities.

What’s wrong with paper and degradable bags?

The production and use of paper bags requires significant inputs of energy and natural resources. The GNWT is seeking local solutions to recycle the large amount of waste cardboard and paper in the NWT. 

Biodegradable bags are made to degrade under specific environmental conditions. They do not degrade well under NWT landfill and environmental conditions.