Sacked! Plastic bag ban is now law in Jackson

JACKSON HOLE, WYO –Town leaders yesterday pulled the trigger on a plastic bag ban set to go into effect on April 15 for large grocery stores and November 1 for smaller retailers. The ordinance will bar stores from using single-use plastic bags at the point of purchase (defined as less than four MILs thick) and requiring them to charge customers 20 cents for each paper or reusable plastic bag. The money will be split evenly between the retailer and the town.

The ordinance has been a long time coming said councilman Jim Stanford, reminding his peers the effort started with a grassroots movement stretching back a generation.

“It starts with us taking action,” Stanford said. “This has been a long-range effort in our community. We’ve been discussing it for literally a year. Some of these early advocates were in third grade at the time we first started considering this.”

Stanford credited several people for their hard work on the campaign, most notably fellow board member Hailey Morton Levinson who, unfortunately, was not there to see it through at last night’s meeting after a cancelled flight left her stranded out of town.

Ex-councilmembers Bob Lenz and Don Frank weren’t there either to vote, leaving a more progressive panel to finally push the law through at third reading after outgoing electeds stalled the measure last month over concerns for how it might affect smaller retailers.

Lenz even took the time to give public comment urging his former mates to give local retailers more time to implement the ban, and reminding the council that the four local large grocers are responsible for the bulk of the plastic wastestream—an estimated 4.5 million bags a year, Lenz said.

Lenz also warned his ex-colleagues they had better refine the vision for the revenue the ban would generate on the town’s behalf. He figured it could amount to some $400,000, annually.

“Due to the fact that the dollars are so humungous you should make sure the language serves the community. You might be spending a quarter of a million dollars, so cover it with more precise language about what you can do with that money,” Lenz said.

How they voted

Arne Jorgensen said he was excited about supporting the ordinance. He mentioned that town government was small enough and nimble enough to react to businesses if implementation proved to be particularly burdensome for some local retailers. He said he would more than willing to tweak the ordinance as unintended consequences or other new information comes to light.

“Our community has been asking us to do something about this for more than a decade,” Stanford said. “I’m proud that, hopefully, tonight our council will finally act on this. And this is only the beginning. We are going to kick off what is going to have to be a community-wide effort to help our merchants but really enact a change in behavior.”

Jonathan Schechter shared how he has personally and professionally been concerned about plastic bag use for more than 30 years, even launching 1% for the Tetons 12 years ago, in great part over the same environmental stewardship a ban on single-use plastic bags would champion.

“The idea that my first significant vote…will be cast in favor of this ban because, if nothing else, it is very symbolic of what we say is our vision as a community to protect and preserve our natural ecosystem. This is an active step we as the public can take using government as a bully pulpit to make a larger point to our community, t our region, to the nation,” Schechter said, adding that he was humbled and honored to be a historic ‘yea’ vote on the matter.

Mayor Pete Muldoon admitted the ordinance was not perfect but functional…and long overdo.

“We’ve arrived at a good place. We have an ordinance that is going to reduce the amount of plastic bags in our waste stream—our oceans, our rivers, our lakes, our trees, in Flat Creek,” Muldoon said.

“This is a big step that will cause some short-term pain. I understand that. But I think it is necessary pain and I believe the reward will be worth it.”

The unanimous vote on third reading officially put into effect Ordinance 1205 “establishing disposable bag requirements and providing for the collection and designation of the fee to the Teton County waste reduction program.”

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