Prince Albert, Sask. bans single-use plastic bags

The city of Montreal has begun a public consultation on banning the use of plastic bags in grocery stores and depanneurs.
Prince Albert becomes the first city in Saskatchewan to ban single-use plastic check-out bags. Ines de La Cuetara/Global News

Prince Albert, Sask., has become the first city in the province to ban single-use plastic bags.

Councillors passed a bylaw Monday prohibiting businesses from distributing single-use plastic bags to its customers.

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Mayor Greg Dionne said this is a first step to reduce what is being produced and what is being sent to landfills.

“We are joining other cities in Canada in our move to ban plastic checkout bags,” Dionne said in a statement.

“I know many people have found a second use for some of these plastic bags, but the truth is that many are ending up in our landfill and littered throughout our community.”

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Enforcement and fines would not be pursued by the city until Aug. 1.

The city said the enforcement delay is to allow customers to change their shopping behaviour and allow businesses to reduce their current stock of plastic check-out bags.

Fines for a first offence by businesses start at $500. A second offence could result in a fine of at least $1,000, and fines for third or subsequent offences range from $1,000 to $10,000.

Individual fines range from at least $100 for a first offence, at least $200 for a second offence, and between $200 and $500 for a third or subsequent offence.

Enforcement of the bylaw will be complaint-driven, the city said in its report.

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There are exceptions to the bylaw. It does not include single-use bags for fruits, vegetables, bakery products, fresh or frozen meat, bulk food and hardware items.

Other exclusions include garbage and trash bags, and wrapped flowers and potted plants.

Officials said the goal of the ban is “to minimize the volume of plastic waste in our landfill, recycling collection systems and littered throughout our community.”

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“This will save both money and the environment.”

The city estimates at least 3-million plastic bags are handed out each year, with many ending up in the landfill or scattered throughout the community.

Officials said a new cell at Prince Albert’s landfill could cost up to $3-million.

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Every business in the city impacted by the bylaw will receive a letter advising them of the bylaw and how it will affect them.

The city’s sanitation manager has already visited several businesses, including Safeway, Save on Foods and Sobeys.

Sobeys is eliminating single-use plastic bags from all its stores across Canada at the end of January.

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A similar ban in Victoria was quashed after a B.C. court found the city didn’t have provincial approval.

Dionne said he is aware of the case and isn’t worried about a challenge to his city’s bylaw.

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“If you’ve got a better solution, a better idea, some way we can reuse these bags or use them for another purpose, bring it forward,” Dionne said.

“But today, just to sit and complain that it’s an inconvenience, well, sorry.”

A bylaw enacted by Victoria in January 2018 banned merchants from giving out plastic bags, requiring them to instead make paper or reusable bags available to customers.

The Canadian Plastic Bag Association challenged the ban and B.C.’s top court ruled in July that Victoria had exceeded its legal authority by implementing the ban without provincial approval, which is required under the province’s Community Charter.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the city on Jan. 23.

The association says it doesn’t plan on challenging similar bans across the country but hopes to educate people about how bags can be recycled or reused.

Click to play video 'Push to ban plastic bags grows' Push to ban plastic bags grows
Push to ban plastic bags grows – Sep 29, 2019

With files from Simon Little and Kyle Benning.