Park City grocer predicts plastic-bag ban will shock customers | ParkRecord.com
by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

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Park City grocer predicts plastic-bag ban will shock customers

Owner of The Market worries about a competitive disadvantage

The Market at Park City, shown on Monday, is one of the businesses covered under a Park City Council-enacted ban on plastic bags. The grocery store says it may distribute 15,000 plastic bags in a month during the busy ski season.

Mike Holm, the owner of The Market at Park City grocery store, on Monday morning spoke to the store's supplier of plastic bags distributed to customers at the checkout stand.

Holm told the supplier not to purchase or print any more plastic bags with the store's logo, a quick action in response to a Park City Council move against plastic bags designed to be used just once. The City Council enacted a ban on the plastic bags, the first such prohibition in the state, and The Market at Park City is just one of three stores that City Hall says will be impacted by the ban. It will go into effect in late June.

Holm said in an interview the grocery store has an approximately six-week supply of plastic bags, meaning that it is likely the store will distribute the last plastic bags at about the same time the City Hall ban becomes effective. He said the ban will have effects on the store's operations, but The Market at Park City is "happy to comply."

"I think they'll be shocked," Holm said about customers, adding, "They'll say 'What, there's no plastic bags?' But they'll get used to it."

The ban will have broad impacts on a store like The Market at Park City. During the offseason, Holm said, the store may distribute a little less than 10,000 of the plastic bags in a month. But during the busy ski season, the number may climb to 15,000 in a month. He said many customers prefer the plastic bags since they can be reused, perhaps as a liner for a trash can or to dispose of pet waste. That makes them a "double-use bag, and triple-use," Holm said.

"There's a lot of uses for these bags," he said.

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Holm also explains that paper bags, which are allowed under the ban, cost more for the grocery store to purchase than the plastic ones that will be prohibited. A paper bag may cost the store 6.5 cents while a plastic one costs less than 1 cent, he said. The increased cost to the store will probably be passed on to customers, perhaps with a new fee for people opting for paper bags, he said. Holm also said fewer than 8 percent of customers bring reusable bags to the store.

A fee or other sort of price increase in response to the ban would put The Market at Park City at a competitive disadvantage against grocers in the Snyderville Basin, Holm said. They are located at Kimball Junction, an unincorporated area of Summit County that is not covered in the City Hall ban.

"It could upset people enough to drive out there and shop. I don't know, but it might," he said, adding that Park City could forego sales taxes if that occurs. "They may stop out at the junction and shop."

The City Council enacted the ban in a unanimous vote after a hearing that drew support from rank-and-file Parkites worried about the environmental impact of plastic bags but questions from the grocery industry. Park City discussed measures targeting plastic bags for nearly a decade before enacting the ban last week. The ban covers stores in Park City that sell groceries and have at least 12,000 square feet. Three stores will be impacted – The Market at Park City, Fresh Market and Rite Aid. Holm's store is the only one of the three under local ownership.

The ban does not involve reusable bags and bags that are used for food products purchased in bulk as well as bags that are used for meat, fish and flower wraps. Paper bags are also not covered. Repeat violators could be fined up to $500.

The prohibition is a part of City Hall's wide-ranging environmental efforts meant to create a more sustainable community. There is also concern that the plastic bags create lots of litter in Park City. City Hall officials have acknowledged state leaders could eventually take action prohibiting a ban like the one Park City enacted, something that could override the City Council decision. People in the audience at the recent City Council meeting were overwhelmingly in support of the passage of the ban.