With a push from environmentally conscious Wood River High School students, the city of Hailey may soon join cities and countries around the world in banning the use of disposable plastic shopping bags.
Hailey voters will likely have a chance to vote on a bag ban when they go to the polls during the fall election in November.
The Hailey City Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday discouraging the use of disposable plastic bags and encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags. The resolution was passed following a presentation by the We Appreciate the Earth's Resources Club from Wood River High School.
WATER Club sophomores Chase England, Lex Shapiro and Maggie Williams said at the City Council meeting that their recent survey of 250 Hailey shoppers indicated that 94 percent already own reusable bags but only 24 percent use them all of the time. They said only 2 percent of surveyed shoppers are against the proposed ban.
"Roxy's Market in Ketchum opened recently as a plastic-bag-free store," club advisor and Spanish teacher Erika Greenberg said at the Monday meeting. "But Atkinsons' Market will be the most crucial part of this."
When the WATER Club presented the first draft of an ordinance that could have banned the use of disposable plastic bags in April, Chip Atkinson, an owner of Atkinsons' Markets in Hailey, Ketchum and Bellevue, said his family was against the ban.
Atkinsons' stores have for years offered incentives for customers to use reusable shopping bags but offer plastic or paper bags to those who want them.
WATER Club members and supporters say the production and use of disposable plastic bags has created pollution problems around the world.
"Businesses should charge the true cost of these bags based on the cost of cleaning them up and their impact on the environment," said Scott Runkel.
Under the proposed ban, paper bags would be permitted and kept on hand by retailers, but cost customers 15 cents each. The WATER Club proposed that half of the money collected for paper bags be given back to retailers. The other half would go into a fund to educate the community about ongoing educational programs.
The WATER Club's plan is not to promote paper bag usage but to make it an interim step in converting shoppers to the use of reusable bags, mostly made from fibers.
The proposed ban ordinance language met with some objections from Hailey City Council members in April and will be redrafted this summer, based on communications between the WATER Club, city staff and business owners in Hailey.
"The resolution is a step to help guide the dialogue process, and ordinance development process," said City Administrator Heather Dawson in an interview. She said the ordinance would likely be back before the council in August.
If the ban ordinance is not passed by the City Council this summer, the WATER Club has plans to put it before the public during the fall election by collecting 157 signatures to get it on the fall election ballot.
Greenberg said Monday that this has been the club's plan all along.
"The only problem we have now is getting someone who is 18 years old or older to collect the signatures," said Greenberg.
The City Council could put the proposed ban up for an advisory vote on the fall ballot in order to measure public support for it.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org