Park City considering plastic bag ban

Posted at 5:25 PM, May 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-10 00:22:21-04

PARK CITY, Utah -- The city council in this resort community took its first steps toward considering a ban on plastic bags within city limits.

Thursday's discussion during a study session for the Park City Council brought out environmental activists, grocery store representatives, retailers and residents who weighed in on the idea. If a ban were to be enacted, Park City would be the first city in Utah with such an ordinance, joining 122 cities nationwide.

Environmentalists said a ban is important for litter control and the environment.

"It's not just the little ones, the flimsy little ones that blow all over the place," said Insa Riepen with Recycle Utah. "The thicker ones, too. There's all different kinds of plastic and there isn't a plastic that's good for our water source."

With an emphasis on the environment in its city planning, Park City already has one of the highest percentages of people who use reusable bags. Even then -- that's only five percent of all grocery store customers, said Kate Bradshaw with the Utah Food Industry Association.

Mayor Dana Williams said the number was "pathetic," and pushed for more outreach to encourage people to remember their reusable bags while running errands or buying groceries.

While environmentalists are pushing a ban, retailers worried the ban could hurt business with increased costs being passed on to consumers who may flee for stores outside city limits.

"I don't want anyone to think that grocery stores love plastic bags," said Doug Dastrup with the Fresh Market. "I'd like to get rid of them, too. But we need to come up with the right thing at the right time, rather than, 'OK it's mandatory.'"

City leaders also acknowledged there are 24,000 hotel rooms in this ski resort town which also plays host to the Sundance Film Festival. Not every tourist will remember to pack a reusable tote. That spurred a discussion amongst council members about providing the bags to hotels with notes encouraging people to be green.

Williams said he believed the lodging industry would be supportive.

"What we're seeing is more and people are looking at the environmental policies of where they spend their disposable income," the mayor told FOX 13.

Still, cost was brought up. Dastrup pointed out to the council that most grocery stores sell their reusable bags to consumers at a loss.

Beyond the ban, council members discussed ways to try to get people to remember the reusable bags. The council considered a fee -- anywhere from 5 to 10 cents for people who choose "paper or plastic."

"There needs to be something other than a feel-good type thing," said Riepen.

But Bradshaw worried that a fee would turn customers off.

"All of that feeds into the price of your groceries," she said. "That fee just can't magically be absorbed. It has to be passed on to the consumer."

Williams told FOX 13 after the meeting the council was not likely to consider an all-out ban, but would continue to study their options in the coming months.

Related story:
Is a plastic bag ban coming to Park City?