Coalition created to ban plastic bags in Park City
City Council will discuss the possibility at a May work session
April 18, 2017
Cathy Batten and Sharelle Rodman have made daily efforts to limit their use of plastics.
But it was a volunteer trip to the Bahamas that made them crank up their determination to stop the use of grocery bags, water bottles and straws in Park City.
Batten said when she and Rodman saw the enormous garbage patch floating in the North Atlantic Gyre, which is a circular system of ocean currents, they realized the destructive effects plastic can have.
"Here, in a landlocked state, we don't always see the effects of what's happening with plastic," Batten said. "When you're on an island and it's getting trapped there, you see what plastic does to a beautiful landscape."
In October, the two thought of starting a coalition to end single-use plastic in Park City. Since then, they've named their effort the Park City Plastic Coalition and contacted Park City Municipal to renew the city's efforts to ban plastic bags.
Luke Cartin, the city's environmental sustainability manager, is now in the midst of researching what a plastic bag ban would look like in Park City, adding there are a lot of kinks to work out. He plans to present his findings at a City Council work session on May 11. Batten and Rodman said they will be there to represent the coalition, which they say is backed by a large part of the community.
"I'm trying to see what's out there that could be an unintended consequence if bags are banned," Cartin said.
The bags used at boutiques and retail stores are thicker than the ones used in grocery stores. Cartin said the ban would most likely be for thinner bags, such as the ones used in grocery stores. He also wants to keep his mind on tourists and to add produce bags and dry-cleaning bags to the list of plastic that is OK for businesses to have.
"A tourist isn't going to fly with reusable bags," Cartin said. "We would still want to allow brown paper bags."
If City Council does approve a plastic bag ban, it may be the first of its kind in Utah, Cartin said.
"There are over 200 communities in the U.S. that have some version of a plastic bag ban," Cartin said. "I'm looking to those city codes for ideas."
Molly Brooks, Recycle Utah's outreach and communication coordinator, said the nonprofit would support a ban. She said the use of plastic bags has a lot of negative effects in Park City.
"They're a huge nuisance at the landfill," Brooks said. "And when they're recycled in curbside bins, they get wrapped around the machines and contaminate them."
Brooks asks that people not put plastic bags in curbside recycling. She also encourages people to limit their use of plastic, since plastic never biodegrades.
"They only photodegrade, which essentially means they turn into tiny particles, and it takes a really long time to do that," Brooks said.
The microplastics then end up in lakes, streams and soil.
"They're consumed by wildlife and can be dangerous," Brooks said, adding that Recycle Utah does accept plastic bags that can be dropped off to be recycled.
Like Brooks, Batten and Rodman want people to be aware of the negatives that come from plastic use. They said in addition to passing a ban on plastic bags, they also hope to educate people on how they can limit plastic use.
"Always bring reusable bags with you," Rodman said.
The two also suggest to use Tupperware instead of Ziploc bags for packing lunches.
Batten said she also tries to avoid buying drinks in plastic bottles or using paper and plastic cups when she orders coffee or goes out to eat.
"I always carry a reusable water bottle and a coffee mug," she said.
To learn more about the Park City Plastic Coalition, visit its Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/plasticfreepc/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf. And to find out how to properly recycle plastic bags and other kinds of plastic, go to Recycle Utah's website: http://www.recycleutah.org.