Get ahead of the plastic bag ban

JACKSON, WY— Jackson Town Council’s unanimous vote on an ordinance now commonly referred to as the “plastic bag ban” has plenty of people rejoicing, but has left perhaps as many worried about how to cart their groceries and other goods home.

Ordinance 1205 “establishing disposable bag requirements and providing for the collection and designation of the fee to the Teton County waste reduction program” goes into effect for large grocers April 15, or November 1 for smaller retailers.

The lowdown: 

After April 15 for larger grocers and November 1 for smaller retailers, businesses can no longer send shoppers home with single-use plastic bags. This only applies to point-of-sale bags—so, produce bags are safe. If shoppers don’t have their own bag, they can pay an extra 20 cents for a paper bag. Half of that tariff will go to the town and county, half will go back to the retailer.

Ahead of the game

Some local business are ahead of the program. Jackson Whole Grocer is on track to be plastic bag free by the end of the month. But they already have a “bag credit” incentive program. People who bring their own bags get a 10 cent bag credit that they can either keep or donate. Whole Grocer matches the donations, so 10 cents turns to 20 cents, and give them all to local nonprofits during Old Bill’s Fun Run. So by the time it gets into local nonprofits’ hands, 10 cents has turned into 40 cents.

Lucky’s has a similar bag credit program. Every month they split the 10 cent donations between three local nonprofits, but shoppers can also choose to keep the 10 cents.

Kroger, meanwhile, the parent company of Smith’s, announced it was phasing out plastic bags back in August. It plans to completely eliminate single-use plastic bags from its grocery stores by 2025. Ordinance 1205 will put Smith’s Jackson branch about six years ahead of schedule.

Which is all good and fine—if you have your own reusable bag. But where do you get them?

Extra baggage

A couple of options.

Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling (ISWR) is already working to conduct a community-wide education and outreach campaign in the next few months, and much of that outreach will include distributing reusable bags. ISWR Superintendent Heather Overholser said they plan to distribute bags to organizations that directly serve the community: schools, One22, the Literacy Center, the Senior Center, and more. Those bags will then be available to the public for as long as they’re in stock.

“We also realize there are some people who have loads of bags, and other people who have few or none. We want to get bags out of hands of people with too many, and into the hands of those who need bags,” Overholser said. So, ISWR will host a “round-up” of bags—people can drop of their excess tote bags (they have to be launder-able, so canvas is best) at the Chamber of Commerce, ISWR headquarters, and other locations TBD. Those bags will then be washed, stamped with ISWR’s “road to zero waste” slogan, and redistributed to those who need them.

Most local grocers also sell their own reusable bags for $1-5 a pop (and if you’re paying 20 cents per paper bag, a reusable bag will pay for itself after just a few errand runs). You just have to remember to bring your bag(s) with you to the store.

What about visitors? The Travel and Tourism Board has them covered. As part of their increased sustainability efforts this year, the TTB is offering free “Stay Wild” canvas bags at the Jackson Hole Airport. Locals are welcome to bags, too. Be sure to pick one up next time you fly into or out of JAC.

“I reuse my plastic bags, what will I use to line my waste bins?” 

That’s a little tougher. Produce bags will work to line small waste bins. You can also buy smaller trash bags for smaller bins.

“I encourage people to use the least amount of trash bags possible,” Overholser said. “Consolidate trash cans into one large trash bag.”

Getting used to the plastic bag ban might take time, Overholser said. “But just like any habit you’re breaking or changing, after so many days it’s going to become second nature… Everyone will get there.”

Overholser said ISRW is here to help small businesses adjust to the change, too. ISWR is putting together training kits for small businesses, and is available to answer any questions business owners might have.

“I know this is a big change for them as well, we’re here to support them and provide any materials they might need,” Overholser said. “If there’s anyone out there who’s really concerned, please reach out. We’re happy to help.”

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