Plastic bag ban

Hyrum resident Arianne Morgan loads grocery bags into her car at Smith’s in Logan on Friday.

Logan Municipal Councilman Herm Olsen said he’s noticed a serious junk problem in Logan, the broader community and the world.

“Especially plastic and especially those darn little, single-use, flimsy plastic bags you get at stores,” Olsen said.

There is an alternative to those darn little bags, he said, and he is pushing for change. Olsen said he hopes that before the end of the year the Municipal Council will take a vote to ban single-use plastic bags in Logan. He said plastic bags are the single greatest contributor to debris at the landfill, they contaminate the recycling stream and they pose a public health risk. Part of the problem is they never go away.

“It’s just permanent,” Olsen said. “It does break up into microbeads of plastic, which then make their way back into the food chain being consumed by fish and birds — animals which we then consume.”

Logan would join the likes of Park City and Moab if it moves forward with a plastic bag ban. Park City in 2017 banned plastic bags at a few large grocery stores and Moab last month banned all single-use plastic bags thinner than 2.25 millimeters.

Members of the Logan Renewable Energy and Conservation Advisory Board, or RECAB, on Friday morning discussed the pros and cons of a ban or perhaps a 10-cent fee on plastic bags.

“They say 10 cents is the magic number to get people to change their behavior,” said Logan Conservation Coordinator Emily Malik.

Savannah Taylor, a USU senior studying recreation resource management, said exploring a plastic bag ban is part of a group project in her sustainability communications class. She said a ban is a good idea, but it will take some work to get the public on board.

“From what I’ve heard, it seems like there need to be a lot more education efforts being made and outreach to the public,” Taylor said. “I feel like unless we get the public involved in this initiative we’re going to get a lot of pushback.”

Tyson Godfrey, a member of RECAB and engineer at Hill Air Force Base, said plastic bags at grocery stores create an automatic behavior. Before a shopper has time to think, the clerk has already loaded their food into plastic bags. But if there is a small fee, that changes the interaction.

“Just the fact of the store having to ask, ‘Do you want these?’ makes people think about it,” Godfrey said.

But Olsen said the regulatory environment in Utah would actually favor an outright ban on plastic bags. He said a 10-cent fee would qualify as a tax, and only the Utah Legislature can impose a tax.

While members of RECAB discussed banning bags perhaps only at large grocery stores, Olsen said he would prefer an outright ban. If the goal is to reduce plastic pollution, he said it wouldn’t make sense to single out some merchants but exclude others.

In December 2017, the Logan Municipal Council, under Olsen’s urging, adopted a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. He said steps toward environmental stewardship, like a ban on plastic bags, should be done sooner rather than later.

“It’s always the right time to do good things, and this is a good thing,” Olsen said.

sdolan@hjnews.com Twitter: @RealSeanDolan