For Utah state lawmakers, a big issue is cities’ efforts to ban plastic bags. Targeting ordinances already enacted by two left-leaning, tourism-dependent cities, HB320 would block Utah cities and counties from regulating “auxiliary containers.” Moab and Park City have banned retailers from distributing single-use plastic sacks for packaging customers’ purchases as way to reduce litter and promote the use of more durable reusable bags.
These regulations, and similar ones contemplated in much larger Logan and Salt Lake City, disrupt the marketplace and hurt businesses, sponsoring Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, told the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Monday.
“If you want to regulate plastic bags, let’s do it consistently and do it across the state,” Dave Davis, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, urged the panel, which advanced the bill on a 6-4 vote. “For our retailers, it presents a challenge when each community does its own thing.”
Several speakers Monday denounced McKell’s bill as a sop to special interests that seek to profit at the expense of communities’ ability to protect their interests and safeguard the environment. ”Communities all over the place are trying to find solutions to a mountain of garbage clogging our oceans,” said Michael Cundick of SLC Air Protectors. “We need all of our municipalities to have every tool available to deal with the problem.”
Plastic bag waste also imposes significant costs to local governments that must gather bags dispersed by wind and extricate them from sorting equipment, according to Park City Mayor Andy Beerman, whose town enacted Utah’s first bag ban in 2017. “There is a reason cities and towns exist,” Beerman said in an interview. “It’s to deal with the unique challenges for their community.”