Moab bans single-use plastic bags

Plastic grocery bags at Moab's City Market. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

MOAB, Utah — The city council in this southeastern Utah tourist town has voted to ban single-use plastic bags.

At its regular meeting Monday night, the council unanimously voted to implement the ban on single-use plastic bags, which are commonly known as plastic grocery or shopping bags. The ban will take effect on January 1.

“What that does is give us time to do really good outreach,” Mayor Emily Neihaus said at the meeting. “So nobody’s caught off guard as there is a fine if someone violates the ordinance.”

The ordinance calls for a warning before any fines are levied, up to $250 for a violation. It also has exemptions, including bags for dry cleaning, prescription drugs, produce or meats or heavier bags 2.25 ml thick. Paper bags would also be an option for businesses, which have already started pushing people to bring reusable bags.

Some council members wanted more input from businesses, but others touted the environmentally positive benefits of removing plastic bags, especially in the tourism hotspot. The community’s grocery stores have expressed a willingness to comply.

Moab City Councilwoman Tawny Knutson Boyd said environmental sustainability is an important issue, as is improving the views around town. Others noted that it will help with trash pickup and reduce impact to landfills.

Moab is the second city to implement a plastic bag ban. Park City passed one last year.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, proposed a bill earlier this year in the Utah State Legislature to charge a fee for single-use plastic or paper bags in an effort to help clogged landfills. It was killed by her Republican colleagues, and triggered a counter-bill to ban any bag bans. However, that bill also failed to pass amid cries of stepping on “local control.”

Sen. Iwamoto told FOX 13 recently she planned to try to bring back her bill in the 2019 legislative session.