Friday, November 11, 2011

Bag-ban initiative could resurface

Student effort brought national spotlight on Hailey

Express Staff Writer

A referendum effort started by Wood River High School students to ban "single-use" plastic bags in Hailey failed in Tuesday's election, but the students say they'll try again next year.

"That's the consensus of the group," said Erika Greenberg, a high school Spanish teacher who mentored environmental club students through a lengthy political process.

That process ended Tuesday when Hailey voters turned down a ballot initiative with 864 "no" votes to 620 "yes" votes, allowing continued use of the bags.

"We are so pleased with our efforts and our success," Greenberg wrote in a prepared statement. "We have a very powerful, inspirational group of 20 young adults that have been successful in drawing awareness in our community and our country. In this election there were twice as many voters than the last, and I can't help but think the efforts of the students had something to do with that.

"Our small club brought in national attention including a strong campaign from the largest plastic bag manufacturer in the U.S. This initiative stirred up global concern about plastic, which was one of our goals. ... We haven't lost, we have just begun, and I am so honored and amazed by these students."

Efforts by citizens to ban plastic bags have taken place around the world, based on claims that they lead to unnecessary pollution and contribute too much to greenhouse gas emissions.

Local grocer Chip Atkinson, and a manufacturing plant in Jerome, Idaho, owned by Hilex Poly, one of the largest manufacturers of the bags, campaigned against the proposed ban. The bag company claimed that a ban on the bags would lead to the firing of U.S. workers.

Mark Daniels, vice president for sustainability and environmental policy for Hilex Poly, released the following statement after the defeat of the referendum in Hailey.

"We applaud that the voters of Hailey, Idaho, have responded to a proposed ban on plastic grocery bags the same way that citizens across the country have in referendums—by voting against this harmful policy. Americans are struggling. They have the wisdom to see beyond misinformation and understand the harmful effect banning or taxing bags has on jobs and on the local economy.

"Plastic bags are a 100 percent recyclable product, and more plastic bags, sacks and wraps are being recycled each year. ... We remain committed to working with communities like Hailey to improve recycling infrastructure and access to recycled content products."

Tony Evans:

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