What you need to know about Prince Albert's plastic bag ban at checkout
The city’s Plastic Checkout Bag Bylaw took effect on Tuesday, making it illegal for stores to give out plastic bags to customers to carry away purchased items.
The ban was poised to take effect in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. Gateway Mall marketing coordinator Donna Hordyski says most businesses were prepared to make the change.
“When they first started talking about it in August of 2020, a lot of our retailers got onboard and they started right away and got rid of their plastic bags,” Hordyski said.
Communication manager, Kiley Bear, says there are two objectives for the ban.
“Hopefully we buy some more time with the landfill which costs millions of dollars to build new cells and the second is to see less litter throughout the community,” said Bear.
Research done by the city shows reusable and plastic do not decompose in a landfill.
“Modern landfills are engineered to entomb waste and prevent decomposition. This actually helps the environment by not producing dangerous greenhouse gases like methane,” the city's website says.
Prince Albert retail businesses and food service businesses are permitted to hand out paper and reusable bags to customers. Some outlets are selling reusable plastic bags, cloth or paper bags, while others are giving out paper bags for free.
Hordyski says the mall supported the ban because it will help eliminate litter.
“Anytime that we have the ability to do a reduce, reuse, recycle program, that’s important for the environment and it helps keep the city beautiful,” said Hordyski.
Backpacks in the mall are still discouraged due to shoplifting.
Fines for the individuals found guilty of dispensing plastic bags to customers start at $100 for the first offence, $200 for second offence and $500 for a third offence. Corporations found violating the plastic bag ban can be ticketed by a bylaw officer $500 for a first offence, $1000 for a second offence and up to $10,000 for a third offence.
"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,” said Mayor Greg Dionne.
The bylaw has some exceptions for plastic bags such as using them for produce, meat, fresh flowers, dry cleaning bags, daily newspaper delivery bags and items purchased in bulk.
Harold’s Family Foods grocery store has put large signs on their store front and in the parking lot to remind patrons to bring their own bags into the store and from their vehicles.
“It takes a number of days to change a habit. It’s going to be quite frustrating for a little bit,” said Harold’s store manager Christopher Szeszorak.
He says paper bags were used at grocery stores a couple decades ago and now it’s come full circle. Harold’s checkouts sell paper bags, reusable plastic bags and fabric bags.
“Paper is more expensive than plastic for sure and merchant is still paying a little bit, the customer is paying part of the cost. We’re charging 15 cents a bag and they do cost a little bit more than that for us to buy,” Szeszorak said.
Harolds will also pack groceries into cardboard boxes for free for people who may have made an impromptu trip to the store or bought more than they were planning for.
The city launched a Bring Your Own Bag or "BYO Bag" campaign and handed out signs for retailers to display at their cash registers to inform consumers of the change.