Plastic bag ban coming, but implementation date still undecided

Herald file photo.

Prince Albert city council is well on their way to approving the first single use plastic bag ban in Saskatchewan.

Council directed city administration at Monday’s executive committee meeting to begin drafting a new bylaw banning businesses from distributing plastic bags. The bylaw will be back in front of council for their Nov. 12 meeting.

Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp has been the most vocal supporter of a plastic bag ban. She said there’s plenty of evidence that Prince Albert residents want such a ban. However, she wants to make sure businesses have enough time to adjust. The city is aiming to have the bylaw in place by next April.

“As much as I do appreciate the quick timeline turnaround, I also want to be fair to all stakeholders,” she said during Monday’s meeting. “Someone who comes to mind is smaller businesses … who may want to use up their stock of plastic bags before trying to implement something new. “

The proposed ban would not affect all plastic bags. There are certain instances, such as wrapping fresh food, where such bags would be legal.

Council’s main concern is cutting down on retail bags, the type used to carry purchases made at major supermarket and department stores.

Several larger stores with outlets in Prince Albert, like Canadian Tire and Sobeys, are on board with a ban, or have plans to phase out plastic bags on their own. Other local businesses, like Harold’s Family Foods, are also on board with the ban, according to a report from the city’s sanitation manger.

While there were some concerns about how far the plastic bag ban would go, or how quickly it would be implemented, most city council members were supportive of putting one in place.

“I really think the (April) date is workable,” Coun. Evert Botha said. “It gives us six months, and the community at large … have already spoken in favour of this. I think that’s a pretty good indication that we’re on the right track.”

“I think the date is achievable,” Coun. Blake Edwards added. “I support the motion through and through.”

An estimated 3.6 million plastic bags are used in Prince Albert every year. Only about nine per cent of them are recycled, according to a study from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.