The ongoing plastic waste discussion was put into action on Tuesday night as the Logan Municipal Council passed a resolution and backup ordinance.
The resolution, which passed unanimously, supports a countywide plastic reduction plan. This plan addresses the management and educational needs when it comes reducing single-use plastics and works with retailers to formulate reduction plans and policies. The implementation of this plan will begin in March 2020.
The resolution does not ban single-use plastic bags but does initiate a garbage collection surcharge on retailers who decide to continue using them. This handling fee surcharge is $17.50 per ton of waste generated.
“Smith’s, a subset of Kroger and a chain nationwide, has already indicated they will eliminate single-use bags. And many merchants, locally, have already done so,” said Council Member Herm Olsen. “We want all of us to do our share, to step forward and minimize or eliminate the unnecessary, permanent plastic trash that we otherwise contribute to the Logan landfill.”
Olsen started having conversations with local retailers about this possibility five years ago and found a general consensus that if the others would start reducing plastic, they would, too. However, after years of little to no movement on that front, Olsen brought the idea before the council.
After a public hearing last March, the council members decided to postpone the vote in order to continue discussions with the county and other committees. The Solid Waste Advisory Board has been working with the Logan City Environmental Department and the Bear River Health Department since then to put together this plan.
In his final meeting as a council member, Olsen described the resolution and ordinance as a needed part of the solution.
The ordinance, however, was not as well received by the committee. Nonetheless as it passed 3-2, Logan became the third city in Utah to pass a citywide plastic bag ban, following Moab and Park City.
It was introduced by Olsen as a “fallback” if the Solid Waste Advisory Board fails to adopt the earlier plan by April 2020. The ordinance altogether bans the distribution of disposable plastic bags in Logan.
“The nature of this particular problem is real, it is legitimate, it is serious enough that I think it is a good statement to our Solid Waste Advisory Board, to the county, that we are serious that we need to address plastic waste one way or another,” Olsen said.
Tom Jensen and Jess Bradfield voted against the ordinance.
“I don’t want to see divisions between cities,” Jensen said. “I sometimes worry that doing something like what is being suggested to do could be a reverse incentive, a big hammer. I’m going to vote no.”
Bradfield agreed and said the ban is not necessary.
“I fear there may be an inclination not to ever repeal it,” Bradfield said, “and I think we had made a good-faith commitment to our businesses not to do that and work with the county.”
The opposition to the ordinance did not keep the audience from clapping as Council Member Jeannie Johnson gave the final yes vote.
“It is a statement about who we are and what our values are,” Olsen said. “It doesn’t hurt, it only helps.”
Samantha Fitch, a student from USU, took celebratory photos with a group of students outside the council chambers following the vote.
As a member of the USU sustainability club, Fitch has been involved in several projects around the community and has paid close attention to the council’s conversations about single-use plastics.
“It has spurred a lot of action among students,” Fitch said. “The plan the council came up with is so well-rounded and includes businesses in every step, which is important. It is neat to see all the effort that has gone into this.”