Cochrane's Safeway will be among the Sobeys Inc. stores eliminating plastic grocery bags next year.

Today, the national grocer announced they will eliminate all plastic bags from their Sobeys flag stores by the end of January 2020. That will be quickly followed by phasing out plastic grocery bags and introducing paper bags in their other banners including Safeway, FreshCo, Foodland and others.

The grocer estimates the change will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation at Sobeys’ 255 locations across Canada each year. The company says its an important first step in the retailer’s journey towards eliminating unnecessary plastic.

Jade Janzen, who has been advocating the ban of single-use plastic bags and straws in Cochrane for some time, believes it's a step in the right direction.

"I think it's great because, yes, the consumer can stop using plastic bags, but if companies stop giving plastic bags then all those people who don't use reusable bags will have to change their ways," says Janzen.

"It's good for companies to take the initiative without being forced to, realizing consumers and customers aren't using their plastic bags or are pushing the companies do something. They're taking the initiative, knowing it's going to have to happen at some point."

In August,  Sobeys will introduce a line of reusable mesh produce bags made from recycled water bottles to provide customers with an alternative for their fresh produce. The reusable mesh produce bags were launched in IGA in Quebec in June and received highly positive feedback from customers, say company officials.

Sobeys has started phasing unnecessary plastic from snacking tomatoes in their Sobeys Urban Fresh store locations in Toronto. Customers are provided with recyclable paper bags which they can use to carry their tomatoes.

As part of its commitment to reducing plastics, Sobeys is partnering with student organization Enactus Canada on a community empowerment project accelerator, challenging young Canadians to find innovative solutions to reduce avoidable plastics for grocery retailers and Canadian consumers while also encouraging behavioural change as it is related to avoidable plastics.

Europe is leading the way in eliminating the use of these bags and it has been embraced by some American States. In Canada, Prince Edward Island is the only province to have banned the bags so far.

In June, the Trudeau Government announced its ambition to have a nationwide single-use ban in place as early as 2021 where feasible. It intends to take additional unspecified approaches to reduce pollution from plastic products and packaging.