Summit County Council Chair Weighs In On Plastic Bag Discussion

Sep 23, 2019

Credit Summit County

The Summit County Council did not make a decision Wednesday after their first discussion on a single-use plastic bag ban. Council Chairman Roger Armstrong says their first meeting was a good start.

Armstrong said they heard about the reasons for a bag ban—but also, received information that gave them pause.

“They do tend to reduce plastic in the environment in terms of those bags flying free in the environment,” Armstrong explained. “They don’t clog up infrastructure. I read a number of articles, that we didn’t even discuss yesterday, that there’s damage that thin plastic bags can cause to machinery in recycling systems and landfill systems. So, there’s a savings from that. By the same token, the impact on greenhouse gases tends to go the other way, because plastic bags tend to be replaced by paper bags. Paper results in more trees being used unless it’s some sort of recycled paper. Paper is heavier, costs more to ship and transport”

He said the discussion about plastic bags can help a lot by changing behavior.

“If you’re in the grocery store, do you really need the plastic bag for the two cans that you’re going to carry out the door? Or can you just carry the two cans,” Armstrong said. “It’s become so ingrained in us as consumers to go ahead and accept the bag to take whatever it is we’ve purchased out. I think a lot of us are finding we don’t need to do that. Y’know, a trip to Costco for us, it may mean three or four trips from the car back inside the house. But we’re not using boxes or bags. Boxes frankly and cardboard has a far greater impact on the landfill than plastic does.”

He said it’s not a Right or Left issue, it’s a matter of being responsible. He said at the same time, while they’re trying to do right by the environment, they have to be mindful that Summit, a county the size of Delaware, has a number of different constituencies.

For instance, he said a bag ban could make sense for the big stores in the Snyderville Basin. But there might be a reaction.

“At the same time, I suspect that some of those are chain stores, the Wal-Marts and the Home Depots, and they may have the ability to resist this at a political level that sets us up for a battle,” Armstrong continued. “We’ve already seen two runs at trying to negate Park City’s bag ban. And as we step into this, I suspect that there may be constituencies in the broader county that might try to elevate that one more time. And I worked with an attorney a long time ago who said that, if you give somebody enough bites at the apple, they’re ultimately going to get what they want, and be able to push something through.”

At Wednesday’s discussion, the audience included half-a-dozen of the young students who had urged Council to put it on the table. Armstrong commended their passion and research on the topic. He told the students they are the ones who can motivate friends and parents.

“We can ban things but y’know, as we’re seeing at the federal level, with the Administration taking certain steps that it’s taking to relax air quality standards, water quality standards, to pull us out of the Paris Climate Accords, we’ll all going to have to do our share individually and as communities to try and offset those impacts,” Armstrong said. “Their voices help. As I said yesterday, children have pointed elbows when it relates to the parents and trying to get their parents to do the right thing.”