Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How does the Single-use Retail Bag Program work?
  2. Why 25¢?
  3. What is a single-use retail bag (SRB)?
  4. Who is included in the program?
  5. Where does the 25 cent environmental fee go?
  6. How can I register my business as a retailer with the program?
  7. What are my responsibilities as a retailer with the program?
  8. What are my responsibilities as a distributor with the program?
  9. Who is responsible for the Single-use Retail Bag Program?
  10. How does the Single-use Retail Bag Program affect distributors and retailers?
  11. How will the Single-use Retail Bag Program be enforced?
  12. What is the Waste Reduction and Recovery Advisory Committee?
  13. Why not recycle single-use retail bags?
  14. What’s wrong with paper and degradable bags?
  15. How will the Single-use Retail Bag Program affect my food budget?
  16. Where can people get more information on the Program?

1.  How does the Single-use Retail Bag Program work?

  • Starting February 1, 2011, all paper, plastic and biodegradable bag will cost 25 cents in all 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 GNWT.

2.  Why 25¢?

  • Studies have shown that when a bag costs 5 or 10 cents, there is an initial drop in consumption, but after some time consumers absorb teh 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.

3.  What is a single-use retail bag (SRB)?

Single-use retail bags are paper, plastic or biodegradable bags that people use 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 inculde:

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

4. Who is included in the program?

All NWT retail stores are included in the program; this includes clothing stores, convienience stores hardward stores, hair salons, florists, etc. Restaurants are not included in the program.  Every NWT household received two compact reusable bags through the mail in spring 2011 as part of the program implementation.

5.  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 to 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).

6.  How can I register my business as a retailer with the program?

If you operate a retail store in the NWT, you must complete an ‘Application for Registration as a Retailer – SRBP R1’ form.  Click here for a copy of the form.

7.  What are my responsibilities as a retailer with the program?

Retailers must:

  • Register with the ENR. 
  • Procure SRBs from registered distributors only.
  • Charge customers 25¢ for each SRB requested.
  • Show the total SRB fees paid on the customer’s receipt.  
  • Collect GST on SRB fees and remit to Canada Revenue Agency.

8. What are my responsibilities as a distributor with the program?

Distributors of SRBs to NWT retail stores must:

  • Register with ENR.
  • Provide a list of all NWT retail stores to which they supply SRBs.  (All NWT postal codes begin with X1A, X0E or X0G.)
  • Collect 25¢ for each SRB distributed to a retail store in the NWT.
  • Report and remit all collected SRB fees to ENR within 30 days from the end of the calendar year quarter in which they were collected.
  • Charge and collect GST on the single-use retail bag (SRB) environment fees it collects from retail stores.  The GST must then be remitted to Canada Revenue Agency.

9.  Who is responsible for the Single-use Retail Bag Program?

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) administers the program by:

  • enforcing the Act and the Regulations;
  • coordinating public information;
  • improving the program; and,
  • undertaking audits or checks on distributors and/or retailers

10.  How does the Single-use Retail Bag Program affect distributors and retailers?

  • Under the program, all NWT stores and the distributors that supply them with SRBs must register with ENR. 
  • Distributors must make regular reports and payments.
  • Retailers and distributors must maintain their records for six years.

11.  How will the Single-use Retail Bag Program be enforced?

  • People are encouraged, but not required, to bring their own reusable bags to the grocery store.
  • Random inspections of retailers by Environmental Protection Officers will ensure that each customer is being charged the 25¢ surcharge for each SRB they receive, and that this fee is marked on their receipt.  Penalties will be appropriate to the offence. Penalties could include fines and jail.
  • Enforcement is important to ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules and no distributor or retailer has an unfair advantage over another business.
  • Random audits will be conducted to ensure financial accountability. Penalties will be appropriate to the offence. Penalties could include fines and jail. Courts could also order other penalties. Officers appointed under the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act will be responsible for making sure the regulations are followed.

12.  What is the Waste Reduction and Recovery Advisory Committee?

The Waste Reduction and Recovery Act enables the Minister of ENR to establish an advisory committee to provide advice and assistance relating to waste reduction and recovery programs established under the Act.
Members of the committee are appointed by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, and reflect the following sectors and organizations:

  • Retailers
  • Distributors
  • Transportation industry
  • Environmental organizations
  • Community governments
  • Public at large
  • ENR

13.  Why not recycle single-use retail bags?

  • In the hierarchy of waste management, reduction should always precede reuse and recycling.  The fewer bags we use means the fewer natural resources we consume and the less waste we produce.

14.  What’s wrong with paper and degradable bags?

  • The production and use of paper bags requires significant inputs of energy and natural resources.  Given that the GNWT is already seeking local solutions to recycle the copious amounts of waste cardboard and paper in the territory, it would not be wise to create more paper waste. 
  • Biodegradable bags are made to degrade under specific environmental conditions, and they would not likely degrade under NWT landfill and environmental conditions.  

15.  How will the Single-use Retail Bag Program affect my food budget?

  • The Single-use Retail Bag Program will have no impact on your food budget if you remember to bring your own bags when you shop.
  • Money generated under the Program goes into the Environment Fund, not into general government revenues.

16.  Where can people get more information on the Program?

If you want more information, or have comments to make, about the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act, the Single-use Retail Bag Regulations or the Single-use Retail Bag Program, contact:

Environment Division
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Government of the Northwest Territories
P.O. Box 1320
Yellowknife NT X1A 2L9
Phone: (867) 873-7654      Fax: (867) 873-0221
Web: www.icarenwt.ca
Email:  nwtrecycle@gov.nt.ca