Park City enacts Utah’s first ban on razor-thin plastic bags
Prohibition covers just three stores and state could override decision
May 12, 2017
Park City leaders on Thursday evening enacted a ban on large stores distributing razor-thin plastic bags to customers, the first prohibition of its kind in the state.
The ban is seen as part of City Hall's broad environmental program and is also meant to reduce the number of plastic bags littering the community. The Park City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ban after a hearing that drew support from Parkites but questions from figures representing industries that will be impacted.
The ban covers only Park City stores that sell groceries and have at least 12,000 square feet. City Hall says three stores will be impacted by the prohibition – Fresh Market, The Market at Park City and Rite Aid. The ban goes into effect in late June.
Park City has discussed measures regarding bags for nearly a decade, first promoting reusable bags and then moving toward more aggressive actions like the one taken on Thursday. There is a possibility state leaders could eventually address the issue as well. An action by the Legislature, perhaps to prohibit bans like the one Park City adopted on Thursday, could override the local decision. Park City Attorney Mark Harrington explained the possibility to the elected officials in response to a question by City Councilor Nann Worel.
The ban involves the thinnest plastic bags designed to be used just once. The large stores generally distribute the bags at the greatest numbers. The ban does not target reusable bags, bags used for foodstuffs bought in bulk and bags that are used for meat, fish and flower wraps. It also does not prohibit newspaper bags, dry-cleaning bags and garbage bags.
"Everywhere I go, there is contamination," Mayor Jack Thomas said.
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Paper bags are not covered in the ban. There was brief discussion about expanding restrictions to paper bags, but the elected officials opted not to include them in a prohibition. Andy Beerman, a member of the City Council, unsuccessfully sought the expanded restrictions to paper bags.
Tim Henney, another member of the City Council, said he supported the prohibition regardless of the possibility of the Legislature taking action later.
"I think the time has come," Henney said, adding people will use reusable bags.
The discussion and vote about a ban drew a crowd to the City Council chambers. The people in the audience were overwhelmingly in support of the prohibition, and some carried signs backing a ban. There were also industry figures in attendance questioning the move by Park City.
Jennifer Gardner, a Park Meadows resident, wore a wig fashioned out of plastic bags as she addressed the mayor and City Council. She said people will opt for reusable bags under a prohibition of plastic ones.
"It is no big deal. We all just learn," she said.
Ed Parigian, who lives in Old Town, said perhaps reusable bags could be made to be souvenirs of Park City. Other speakers in support mentioned that using alternate bags becomes habit in places where plastic ones are prohibited and that Park City's tourism-heavy economy will adapt to a ban.
But industry figures questioned, saying nearby stores outside of the Park City limits will not operate under the same prohibition, raising the prospects of a competitive disadvantage. They also said plastic bags cost less than paper ones and the increased costs will be passed on to customers. They also said paper bags do not hold up like plastic bags in bad weather.
Dave Davis, representing the Utah Food Industry Association and the Utah Retail Merchants Association, said it is likely the Legislature will become involved if Park City enacts a ban. He cited the cost of paper bags compared to plastic ones. Davis said the industries want people to use reusable bags.
"It pushes people from one single-use bag to another single-use bag," he said about the ban.