Calgary Launches Bag in Bag Campaign

Connector Spring 2017

The City of Calgary ran a communications campaign from February 1 to March 31 to educate Calgarians about the proper way to recycle their plastic bags. For two months, the City reached out with bag in bag messaging to Calgarians through multiple avenues; in their utility bills, local papers and on social media. The materials recovery facility (MRF) in Calgary wants to accept plastic bags in bags. They do not want loose bags that can fly around, get stuck in other recyclables and jam the machinery.

The City completed field audits prior to the campaign to determine how many of the City’s Blue Carts contain loose bags; this baseline was determined to be 25% of carts. Now that the campaign has wrapped up, the City will do another round of field audits to measure the results.

Calgarians put over 870,000 kg of plastic bag and film into their blue carts every year – a considerable proportion of this arrives at the MRF not properly prepared (loose instead of bagged). This slows down the recycling process, damages equipment, and costs more money, time and resources to deal with this item. When the bags are properly bundled, it makes it easier for the workers to pull them out from the rest of the recyclables to set aside for recycling.

“We’ve only heard of anecdotal improvements at this stage,” remarked Sharon Howland, the City of Calgary’s Leader, Program Management of Waste and Recycling Services. “We have a few tips for others wanting to do a similar campaign. People did not realize that they are supposed to bag their bags. Some complain and don’t want to participate, others have thanked us for the tips. The main thing is to keep driving the message home.”

Acceptable plastic bags in Calgary’s program include:

  • Grocery bags
  • Shopping bags
  • Sandwich/lunch bags
  • Ziploc/freezer bags
  • Bread bags
  • Dry cleaner bags
  • Plastic stretch wrap
  • Bubble wrap

Do not recycle these types of bags:

  • No single or loose plastic bags
  • No crinkly bags like cereal or cracker bags
  • No food pouches

The City will be collaborating with students from the Alberta College of Art and Design later in the year to create new concepts and encourage plastic bag recycling.

submitted by Tammy Schwass

Watch the City of Calgary’s PSA Video below (password: bags)