SASKATOON -- Prince Albert has banned the use of plastic checkout bags by retail and food service businesses effective immediately.

Fines and enforcement are to take effect Aug. 1 to allow businesses to familiarize themselves with the bylaw regulations and make changes to accommodate the move away from plastic, according to a city news release.

“We are joining other cities in Canada in our move to ban plastic checkout bags,” Mayor Greg Dionne said in the release.

“We have a throw away culture. This ban is a first step in what needs to be a rethinking of what we are producing and how much we are sending to the landfill. 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.”

The bylaw has been in the works since the summer of 2019 when an online survey was conducted, with 75 per cent of respondents in favour of the ban, the city says. Consultations with local grocery stores also indicated that many were already considering the change with Sobey’s announcing a Canada-wide ban by the end of January 2020.

The ban will apply to plastic bags distributed at the checkout counter with several exceptions provided for in-store use of plastic bags such as items purchased in bulk.

At least three million plastic bags are estimated to be handed out in Prince Albert each year with many ending up in the Prince Albert landfill and scattered throughout the community, the city says.

Saskatchewan produces the second highest amount of waste per capita in Canada, the city says.