Mike Holm would be one of the Park City businesspeople most impacted should City Hall institute a ban on plastic bags.
The owner of The Market at Park City said in an interview this week a ban would add expenses to his operations, annoy some customers and not accomplish much for the environment. He is unsure whether he would support or oppose such a ban but said he would back the decision the local government makes.
The Market at Park City is almost certainly one of the top users of plastic bags in Park City, and his comments come as City Hall and the not-for-profit Recycle Utah continue to consider ideas. A law has not been proposed, but it seems that one could be crafted in the coming months.
Holm said the grocery store uses both paper and plastic bags. Plastic bags are far more popular with customers, he said, describing them as easier to handle when they are full of groceries and less bulky than paper bags.
"You can fit six of them in a hand, with handles, and carry them up stairs," he said.
In a month during the ski season, The Market at Park City might distribute 80,000 bags to customers. Of those, fewer than 1,000 might be made of paper, he said. The grocery store pays one-half of one cent for a plastic bag while it costs five to seven cents for each paper bag, according to Holm. The Market at Park City, meanwhile, provides a five-cent credit per bag if someone brings their own bags to use.
Officials anticipate Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council will address the topic late in the spring or early in the summer. It is unclear when a vote would be cast.
The discussions about a ban on plastic bags will be part of City Hall's broad environmental program. Such a move would likely win support from environmental groups like Recycle Utah, but it is not known whether there would be wider opposition from businesses, particularly if they feared that costs would increase. Grocery stores tend to distribute more plastic bags than other businesses, but many other stores offer them.
The elected officials recently held a brief, unscheduled discussion about the topic, but they did not make significant progress. Williams at that meeting said perhaps staffers should research laws in other communities. The research is believed to be either underway or starting soon.
Recycle Utah this month, meanwhile, is conducting an online survey about plastic bags designed for one use, like the ones at grocery stores and other businesses. Insa Riepen, the executive director of the group, said she wants the community to hold a discussion about the topic. She declined to use the word 'ban' when talking about possibilities.
Riepen said plastic bags are oftentimes thrown away as litter rather than being disposed of properly or being recycled. They could end up in waterways, she said.
"What I would like to do is start a conversation about single-use plastic bags being a nuisance in our environment," she said, describing a "high environmental cost."
She said approximately 100 people completed the survey in the early days it was posted. More than 90 percent at that time supported a ban, but she acknowledged the number of people who had taken the survey by then was small. Riepen said she plans to forward the results to City Hall.
The front page of Recycle Utah's website late in the week carried a message of "let's ban the bag!" and indicated the group was advocating a ban.
"Less than 5% are recycled; instead, they are a nuisance in our landfills and litter our roads and public lands, harming Utah's billion-dollar tourist industry and killing cattle and wildlife. Moreover, plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life," the survey says in an introductory statement.
Some of the questions involve the breadth of a ban someone supports, the popularity of reusable shopping bags and how someone disposes of plastic bags. The questions indicate other places like Washington, D.C., Aspen, Colo., Telluride, Colo., and Austin, Texas, have introduced some sort of restrictions on bags.