Paper or plastic: there might not be a choice in Park City
Park City leaders indicated on Thursday they could later consider enacting a ban on plastic bags inside the city, something that would continue City Hall’s broad environmental programs.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council did not spend extensive time talking about the topic, but more discussions will apparently be held. The elected officials said they wanted the idea of a ban to be on the agenda during an upcoming meeting with Summit County leaders.
It seems there could be a split among the members of the City Council if a ban is proposed. It appeared City Councilman Tim Henney was interested in considering a ban while Liza Simpson, another City Councilor, said she was pleased with the progress already made in combating plastic bags.
It was anticipated the elected officials during the meeting would discuss the popularity of reusable bags, but it was not clear beforehand whether the talk would move to the idea of a ban.
Insa Riepen, the executive director of Recycle Utah, broached the idea of a ban during comments to the elected officials. If a ban is not enacted, Riepen said, there will not be progress.
The discussion on Thursday occurred less than a year after a previous lineup of elected officials adopted a resolution encouraging people to select reusable bags rather than ones that are designed to be used once. Reusable bags are typically made out of a material like cloth. Many of the bags designed for one use are made of plastic.
The elected officials at the time discussed enacting a ban, but the idea did not win support. The resolution that was passed instead noted that disposable bags can be unsightly and that they are factors in climate change since petroleum is needed to make them. The resolution encouraged stores to use and promote cloth or fiber bags that could be reused. It also acknowledged that some purchases necessitate bags meant for one use, such as buying meat or fish or buying bags for yard work.
Many businesses in Park City — large ones and smaller ones — will almost certainly closely monitor the discussion if the City Council considers enacting a ban. In 2013, as the elected officials debated what would become the resolution, business interests testified about the impact of banning plastic bags.
A representative of the Utah Food Industry Association told the elected officials at the time paper bags and reusable bags are more expensive than plastic bags. The representative also said there was not a precedent in Utah for a ban. The Park City Chamber/Bureau wondered about the impact on tourists while the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents businesses on or close to Main Street, indicated more stores used plastic bags than paper ones.
A report submitted to the mayor and City Council in anticipation of the Thursday meeting provided numbers collected from the grocery stores in Park City. The report said approximately 440,000 plastic bags had been distributed to customers since July 2012. During the same period, 9,250 paper bags had been distributed.
The grocery stores since July 2012 sold 1,200 bags that are reusable and donated 150 more reusable bags, the report said. They also gave 31,250 credits — an incentive defined by the individual stores — to people with their own reusable bags, according to the report.
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The Park City Council primary election is slated for Aug. 13, but the ballots in the vote-by-mail contest were scheduled to be sent on Tuesday. The Summit County Clerk’s Office anticipates the ballots will arrive in mailboxes and post-office boxes on Friday or Saturday.