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Utah lawmaker may introduce bill that requires shoppers to pay 10 cents for grocery bags

Utah lawmaker may introduce bill that requires shoppers to pay 10 cents for grocery bags

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah legislator may introduce a bill that would require shoppers to pay 10 cents for grocery bags — both paper and plastic.

The bill would require shoppers to pay a little extra for each grocery bag they use in an effort to encourage the use of reusable totes, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, said Tuesday morning when she appeared on KSL Newsradio’s "Dave and Dujanovic."

Iwamoto introduced a similar bill first in 2016 then again in 2018, but neither made it past the legislature. She’s still deciding whether she wants to reintroduce the bill with new changes this year and has until Feb. 7 to make that decision.

After visiting Utah’s landfills, Iwamoto believes the problem needs to quickly be addressed. Utahns throw away about 940 million plastic bags each year, all of which end up in landfills since they can’t be recycled unless they’re with other plastic bags. Once in the landfill, they could take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

The harmful effects of the bags affect not only area wildlife, but humans as well, Iwamoto added. The money collected from bag sales would go toward improving Utah’s landfills and recycling plants.

Park City and Moab already have bans in place for plastic bags, and Logan will debate the issue Tuesday night.

“I’m a really strong proponent of local control,” Iwamoto said.

She hopes to have a clearer idea of whether or not she’ll reintroduce the bill after speaking to local leaders in those three cities.

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For those worried about the hygienic issues that come with reusing the same bag for multiple grocery trips, Iwamoto said there may be an exception for things like bagging chicken or fruits.

Yet, some skeptics still wonder whether a 10-cent tax would even deter shoppers from using the plastic bags and if the legislature should up the price. Others dislike the tax-like quality of the bill, but Iwamoto counters that it’s not something people have to pay if they don’t want to.

If you want to recycle your plastic bags, don’t just chuck them in your recycling bin. Employees often have to stop the recycling process and pull plastic bags out if they’re mixed in with other recyclables.

To recycle your bags, drop them off at a designated location at certain grocery stores like Walmart or Smith’s.

Contributing: KSL Newsradio

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