“It’ll be good for the environment, it’ll be good for the landfill, it’ll stop litter, so it’s a good news story.”
Hawkins added that there has been “remarkably little resistance” to the bylaw from Regina community members, which the city estimates use 200-300 plastic grocery bags per year on average.
“We had questions. We spent a year answering those questions,” said Hawkins.
“Some of the major businesses have switched to abandoning single use bags quite quickly, and as the years go on we’ve noticed more and more people bringing their own carry bags and using paper bags. Many people remember — you have to go back a little ways — but we never used plastic bags. There were many other ways to carry goods around.”
Shoppers at some large grocery stores in Regina, such as Sobeys’ chains Freshco and Safeway, may have noticed plastic grocery bags have already disappeared from tills.
A member of Envirocollective, a local advocacy group that has supported the bylaw from its early stages, said he hopes the ban enactment can kickstart greater environmental stewardship in Regina.
“That’s why this whole thing is exciting, because when we rethink things we can think of how we can make it better. Can we use paper, can we use reusable plastic, can we use cotton? Is there a way of tapping into our agriculture for wheat straw or other materials that can be used to make bags?” said Envirocollective Co-chair Rob Delgrau.
“Look at steel. Steel can be recycled over and over and over again. The same thing can happen when we rethink plastic bags. What’s going to happen, is we can create subindustries. Look at aluminum cans. Yes, we pay a deposit when we buy it, but now we employ a whole bunch of people on the recycling end in the recapturing of that material.”
From the city, the bylaw “prohibits retail business, food service business or service business from providing, distributing, selling plastic bags or plastic checkout bags for the purpose of transporting items purchased or received.”
Businesses are still allowed to provide plastic bags to customers for purposes like carrying fruits and vegetables, bakery items, bulk foods and meat, among other things.
Bylaw enforcement officers can be tasked with inspecting businesses for compliance with the new bylaw. Violation fines begin at $100 and can stretch to as high as $10,000 for repeat offenders.