Lawmakers consider adding 10-cent fee to plastic, paper bags

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposal to add a 10-cent fee on all plastic and paper bags used in places like grocery stores is moving through the Utah legislature.

The bill’s sponsor and backers say the bags are causing major headaches at landfills, clogging up recycling machines and adding to litter in neighborhoods. Sen. Jani Iwamoto, a Democrat from Holladay, said fewer than 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled.

“This is an incentive so consumers will hopefully reduce their use of single-use retail bags over time,” Iwamoto said. “You don’t have to pay anything. You can bring your own bags with you.”

The measure passed by a 3-2 vote this week in a business and labor committee. Now, it goes to the Senate.

The Utah Association of Counties supports the proposal. Sen. Todd Weiler, a Republican from Woods Cross said he supports the proposal but acknowledges it could be difficult to get full support from the Senate.

“Most people who don’t want to pay a few extra cents for a bag that is going to pollute the environment will bring an extra bag,” Weiler said. “It is incentivizing people to do the right thing.”

The American Progressive Bag Alliance opposes the bill.

“Taxes and regulations on highly reused and 100 percent recyclable plastic retail bags don’t solve waste management problems, and they don’t benefit local economies or the environment,” said Mark Daniels, the alliance’s chairman.

George Chapman, a former candidate for Salt Lake City mayor, called the plastic bag an “American success story,” and argued that the fee was like a tax on food.

The fee would not apply to pharmacy bags for prescriptions, newspaper bags and bags used by nonprofits to carry food.

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