“The public told us very clearly: 77 per cent of 10,000 people who were surveyed said they wanted to do this,” he said.
“Other cities are doing it. It was time.”
Hawkins introduced a motion at a city council meeting Wednesday, asking city administration to draft a new bylaw banning the bags.
It was unanimously approved by his fellow councillors.
“I haven’t received any pushback at all. I don’t think other councillors have, either,” Hawkins said of his initiative.
“This was something the public and retailers told us it was time to do.”
The bylaw is currently being drafted by the city solicitor, and is expected to be finished and considered by council in July.
Hawkins says the plan is to have the bylaw take effect one year after it is approved by council. He says the city will launch educational and awareness campaigns during that grace period.
“If there’s need for enforcement, there will first be warnings and it would only be as a last resort that bylaw enforcement officers would need to ticket and issue fines to retailers,” Hawkins added.
“But I don’t anticipate there to be any problems.”
Global News spoke to a number of retailers who echoed Hawkins’ sentiment.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Lakeview Fine Food said, “we support efforts by city council to reduce plastic waste and believe grocers have a responsibility to adapt”.
A spokesperson for Dad’s Organic Market said the store was already preparing for the transition.
“We’ve been encouraging customers to bring their own bags, although they can’t right now during the pandemic,” said Assistant Manager Nick Gottinger. “We give them extra points in our rewards program if they bring their own bags.”
Sobeys grocery stores, meanwhile, made the switch to paper bags earlier this year.
Hawkins said the initiative will support goals to make Regina a more “sustainable” city by 2050,
“In the world it’s getting more and more difficult to find places to get rid of plastic bags by way of disposal. We’re running out of ways to dispose them.”
A stipulation in his motion noted that any eventual bylaw will be suspended amid the current or future health emergencies.
The city says plastics, including checkout bags, make up one per cent of all waste at Regina landfills.