Park City leaders on Thursday indicated they did not have a strong interest in enacting a ban on plastic bags, but it appears there will be further talks in the coming months about measures to protect the environment from disposable bags.
Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council discussed ideas like a ban during a meeting, but the elected officials were not scheduled to make decisions. They indicated they could hold another meeting, perhaps in July, with industries that would be impacted should City Hall move against bags that are designed to be used once.
Williams said he wanted the talks to continue, but he also said he did not want a law drafted by City Hall. He said he did not want to hurt businesses by enacting a ban on the bags. He would like to influence people to decrease their reliance on bags meant to be used once, like plastic ones.
Andy Beerman, a City Councilman, preferred to devise ways to influence behavior rather than creating a ban. He said he would like people to use reusable bags instead of plastic or paper ones.
City Hall staffers had not drafted a law banning plastic bags, but one would have been written had the elected officials been supportive. In a report submitted to Williams and the City Council in anticipation of the meeting, staffers outlined measures that have been taken elsewhere. They include bans on plastic and paper bags, bag taxes or fees and mandatory refunds for customers who have reusable bags when they shop.
The effort is seen as part of City Hall's wide-ranging environmental program. There are concerns about plastic bags not being disposed of properly and becoming litter.
City Councilwoman Cindy Matsumoto said she has seen plastic bags become problematic elsewhere, mentioning she has seen them littering the roads.
"I've seen plastic bags hanging in the trees," she said, adding that the bags could become a threat to wildlife.
The elected officials received a mix of opinions from speakers on Thursday. A formal hearing was not scheduled, but Williams oftentimes allows input anyway.
Alison Butz, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, said she conducted a survey of merchants along Main Street that showed more stores on the street use plastic bags than paper ones. She said businesses on Main Street need to be allowed to provide a bag to customers because they do not bring their own.
Bill Malone, the president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, wondered about the impact of a ban on tourists and said a ban could also have effects on restaurants, retailers and newspaper carriers that use plastic bags.
Kate Bradshaw, who represents the Utah Food Industry Association and a statewide merchants association, told Williams and the City Council there is not a precedent in Utah for a rule. She suggested City Hall not ban plastic bags. She said paper bags and reusable bags are more expensive.
But Glenn Wright, a Park City resident, said banning plastic bags could provide a boost to the tourism industry.
"I think it puts us ahead of our market. It will make us stand out," he said.
Insa Riepen, the executive director of Recycle Utah, said the elected officials could consider imposing a fee on all bags. People would then choose to use their own bags, she said. Riepen said the discussion should not be seen as a move against grocery stores.