On Friday Utah lawmakers considered two very different bills dealing with plastic bags. They rejected one that would impose a fee on the bags, and approved another that would ban cities from imposing their own plastic bag bans.
Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, presented a bill to charge ten cents per plastic bag, arguing it would reduce litter and encourage customers to take their own reusable bags to the store.
Mark Hoyer, director of the Trans-Jordan Landfill supported the bill, speaking about some of the issues plastic bags cause there.
“They’re not recyclable in Utah,” Hoyer said of single-use bags. “The collection of these bags is difficult and it’s not cost-effective. They are lightweight and aerodynamic.”
Hoyer budgets $40-50,000 a year to pick up loose plastic bags around the landfill. Other landfills around the state, including Trans-Jordan, are planning more than $1 million in construction of new fencing to capture flyaway bags, he said.
Lawmakers on a senate panel were skeptical of the bill, wondering why cities and counties couldn’t impose their own tax on plastic bags rather than the state mandating it. They held the bill and recommended further study on the issue.
But shortly after, they approved a bill to prevent cities from banning or otherwise regulating bags and other single-use containers, as well as items like cups or straws.
Sen. Gregg Buxton, R-Roy, is running that bill, arguing it would protect businesses.
"This is a business bill to help us regulate, rather than regulate city-by-city or county-by-county,” he said.
Buxton argued such rules create a “patchwork” of regulations that is hard for businesses to deal with.
Utah League of Cities and Towns spoke against the bill, saying it removes local control and would preempt Park City’s plastic bag ban.
Lawmakers voted to advance the proposal, but committee chair Sen. Jacob Anderegg warned that it still has a long way to go with only nine days remaining in the legislative session.