Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hailey voters to decide on plastic bag ban

Express Staff Writer

The distribution of "single-use" plastic bags, the thin kind we often carry groceries home in, could become unlawful in Hailey retail stores this fall.

After months of research and community involvement, a group of conservation-minded Wood River High School students succeeded in getting a proposed plastic bag ban on the Nov. 8 Hailey election ballot.

The final wording on the ballot was authorized by the Hailey City Council on Monday. If the initiative passes with more than 50 percent of votes, it will become city law. Retailers still using the illegal bags would be fined $50 per day.

Large companies that manufacture the bags, including one called Hilex Poly Co., which has a manufacturing plant in Jerome, are fighting a global battle to keep them in use.

The idea behind the ban is to require people to use their own reusable shopping bags, or recycled paper bags that are available at stores.

Telluride, Colo., banned the free bags in March, following bans in China, Italy and elsewhere.

Sophomores Chase England, Lex Shapiro and Maggie Williams, members of the school's Environmental Club, presented the proposed change to the city several months ago. They gathered 157 signatures on a petition to get a plastic bag ban initiative on the fall ballot. The students have been mentored by club advisor and Spanish teacher Erika Greenberg.

The Environmental Club's efforts stem from a Just Bag It program organized by volunteer Elizabeth Jeffrey on Earth Day, April 22, 2010. Jeffrey, while working for an $8,943 Materials Management Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded to Hailey last year, organized high school students to help educate the public about reducing the use of disposable plastic bags.

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