Bill to charge Utah shoppers for using paper or plastic bags advancing to Senate floor

Posted at 9:48 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 23:52:50-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's only 10 cents, but it’s causing a heated discussion with shoppers around the state.

Thursday night at the Utah State Capitol, a bill that would charge you for using a paper or plastic bag at retail stores passed its first committee vote.

Fees like this already exist in California and Washington, and the senator sponsoring the bill tells FOX 13 it's time for Utah to follow suit. But not all Utahns see it that way.

“It would kind of really suck to be charged to be able to haul our own groceries out of the store,” said Mandy Brown of Tooele.

Paper or plastic could both soon come with a fee.

“I think I’d start bringing my own bags with me,” said Francis Maurite of Sugar House.

After passing a committee vote, the bill now moves on to the senate floor. Under the measure, shoppers would be charged 10 cents per bag at the checkout stand.

“It started off as something as I had seen as my own experience, and it's something that's going around the nation," Senator Jani Iwamoto, D-District 4, said.

Iwamoto said her bill is all about making shoppers more conscious of the environment by encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags.

“Your habits change overnight,” Iwamoto said.

She says Utahns take home 940 million plastic bags each year, but only 1 to 3 percent of those make it to a recycling bin.

“It's a low-hanging fruit, but it, people have strong opinions about it,” Iwamoto said.

Some were for it, but others are against the change.

“This doesn't make sense," one man said during the public comment period. "Plastic bags are an American success story. This bill actually limits competition between stores."

The average American family takes 1,500 plastic bags home each year. If this bill passes, that's an additional $150, on average, added to your grocery budget, unless you bring a bag of your own.

Senator Todd Weiler acknowledged this bill is likely to face an uphill battle on the Senate floor, which it should reach sometime next week.

The money collected by the measure would be used to fund education and recycling management.