Legislature Mulls 10-Cent Fee for Single Use Shopping Bags

A proposed bill on Utah’s Capitol Hill would charge consumers a 10-cent fee per plastic or paper bag used to carry purchases like groceries as a way to help keep those bags out of landfills.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, says plastic shopping bags are not recyclable, so she wants to find a way to change people’s habits when using them.
“We didn’t want to ban plastic bags, but we thought the 10-cent fee per bag would motivate people,” says Iwamoto.
Iwamoto says the plastic bags are not recyclable, so they end up in the landfill anyway. Plus, the bags and other plastic film gum up the machines at the recycling plant.
“I went to Rocky Mountain Recycling, which currently processes about 85% of the curbside recycling in the state. They have to stop their machines to cut this plastic out.”
Iwamoto says the plastic they can’t process costs Rocky Mountain Recycling approximately $25,000 a month in extra labor costs.
The 10-cents per bag fee included in SB196 also covers paper bags, which are recyclable, but have as big of an impact on the environment as plastic because of the water and greenhouse gases produced in their manufacture.
Consumers can either pay the 10-cents per bag, or forego the use of bags or bring their own to avoid paying the fee. Many retailers already give a rebate to consumers who bring reusable bags.
Iwamoto says she collaborated with retailers, restaurants, cities and the Utah Association of Counties to come up with her plan. She adds all of the groups pushed for the statewide legislation.
“We don’t want a store in Salt Lake City doing one thing and the same company operating under a different set of rules in St. George.”
The legislation includes a few exemptions for bags restaurants use to hold prepared food, dry cleaning bags, which are specialty items, and plastic bags used to carry bulk foods. 
“Habits are hard to break. This won’t be a panacea for anything, but it’s a good start, especially with the costs we incur when these bags end up in a landfill,” she says.