November 14, 2005

Mountain Equipment becomes first retailer to offer BioBag

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), a Canadian retailer widely recognized for its corporate social responsibility practices, has introduced a new shopping bag program designed to further reduce the environmental impact of its store operations. The program features a fully biodegradeable and compostable BioBag, to be phased into MEC stores across the country over the next six months.

In so doing, MEC will become the first national retailer in Canada to use the Norwegian-made BioBag. Manufactured mainly from non-genetically modified corn and synthetic polymers, these bags are widely used in Europe to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and landfill volumes. BioBags meet international packaging standards, including the American Society for Testing and Materials standard for compostable plastic (ASTM D6400-99). BioBags will break down in compost in four to twelve weeks, depending on conditions.

"Our stores hand out approximately 510,000 shopping bags every year, and we're a relatively small retailer" said Gary Faryon, senior manager of MEC operations. "By encouraging MEC members to use re-useable shopping bags and providing BioBags, the new program reduces the environmental footprint of our operations."

MEC also manufactures and sells re-useable organic cotton and nylon shopping bags. The re-useable bags are displayed in prominent locations in its stores to provide customers an alternative to disposable shopping bags.

Only a small percentage of plastic packaging is currently recycled. Most ends up in landfills, where it often blows away before it can be buried. Many birds and marine animals die every year from ingesting plastic bags.

The new program also includes a mechanism for MEC members to provide financial support to environmental causes. MEC will donate five cents to a local environmental organization on behalf of each member who makes a purchase without taking a bag.

"The donation is the icing on the cake," said MEC sustainability manager Denise Taschereau. "It lets us reward members for their behaviour and at the same time support good work in their community."

MEC specializes in outdoor recreation products and services. Established in 1971 as a retail co-operative, MEC has more than 2.2 million members both within and outside Canada. Its network of ten stores across Canada is supplemented by a mail order business, corporate and group sales program and a fully transactional e-commerce Web site. More information is available on-line at www.mec.ca/biobag and www.biobag.ca.

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