Council Approves First Step in Plastic Bag Ban

By on May 21, 2018

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Seven years and millions of plastic bags later, the second attempt to ban plastic bags in Jackson is moving forward. Town Council unanimously voted Monday to draft an ordinance to ban plastic bags and impose a 10-cent fee on paper bags.

The council’s unequivocal support was in stark contrast to a workshop in 2011 when former Councilor Greg Miles proposed a ban. That effort did not have the council’s blessing, particularly then-Mayor Mark Barron.

“In 2011, there were school children who expressed their support for a ban,” Councilor Jim Stanford said. “These kids are getting ready to have kids of their own now and it is about time we follow through for them.”

Still, Stanford called Monday’s decision the result of “an evolution and a process.”

The 2011 proposal spurred education and outreach efforts about reducing plastic bag waste and “this is simply the next step,” he said. 

Details on the ban will emerge in the coming months after town staff presents an ordinance. Council members discussed the option to phase out bags or enact an immediate ban. They also considered precisely which businesses would be affected. Local grocers are the largest purveyors of plastic bags where shoppers in Jackson go through five million bags per year, grocers have estimated. But the ban could include all retailers.

Stanford said it should be “fairly easy” to implement a ban given town staff has twice completed extensive research. For example, the 2011 staff report showed that grocers were largely in support of a ban and that sentiment has not shifted, said Johnny Ziem, wastewater manager for the Town of Jackson.

In his latest research, Ziem said he studied the increasing number of towns, cities and states across the nation that have enacted bans. He looked at options implemented by similar resort towns like Aspen, Crested Butte and Telluride, Colorado. “Aspen has a really strong sustainability department. They are incredibly thorough and we can use this information,” Ziem told Planet Jackson Hole.

To address how low-income families would access reusable bags—one of Barron’s key concerns in 2011—Ziem suggested using the fee from paper bags to purchase and donate reusable bags to community members. The money could also fund education, outreach and programs at Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling.

During Monday’s workshop, about a dozen people addressed the Town Council. Each voiced their overwhelming support. “In 2011, I supported this,” Miles told the council. “It was time to get it done in 2011; it is time to get it done now.”

Beyond the environmental impacts, one reason to act now, Paul Hansen told the council, is because the plastic industry has been “vicious” in its opposition to such bans. The industry has swayed state lawmakers to prohibit local bans in nine states including neighboring Idaho. Jackson “cannot let the state take this into its own hands.”

Councilors needed little convincing. Mayor Pete Muldoon called it “a no-brainer.”

Meanwhile, Councilman Don Frank quipped that Jackson will become a BYOB (bring your own bag) community.

He matched the emphatic public tone in his closing comments: “We have become unfortunately a convenience and consumption society and we innocently do what is put in front of us … it is an innocent attraction that is not innocent in its results.”


About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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