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Agencies, town brace for looming bag ban

February 13, 2019

With plastic sacks set to mostly vanish from Jackson in two months, the town is orchestrating a transition to ease shoppers and businesses into the new, bagless reality.

Phase one of the town’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect April 15, when grocers and larger retailers will be required to relinquish inventory they haven’t used. Before then, officials are pushing reusable bags and the values of sustainability to lay the foundation for a less wasteful future.

“We’re excited to help the community adjust to the change,” said Heather Overholser, superintendent of Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling. “We want to help them build this habit.”

Elected officials recently amended the town’s budget to include about $18,000 for outreach and education regarding the bag ban. Assistant Public Works Director Johnny Ziem said most of money was used to buy 20,000 bags made of 100 percent recycled plastic.

“We just want to make sure that everyone has bags available to them,” Overholser said. “We don’t want the ban to be something that is a barrier for anyone.”

Besides purchasing new bags, she said, ISWR is conducting a bag roundup. The agency is collecting people’s excess bags, O’Ryan Cleaners is laundering them for free and then they’ll be redistributed to those who need them.

The agency is also distributing reusable bags through a number of channels, including the schools, the Senior Center of Jackson Hole and the Teton Literacy Center. Overholser said any other organizations interested in distributing bags should contact her.

Meanwhile, the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has executed its own reusable bag drive, handing out 5,000 canvas sacks bearing its “Stay Wild” campaign tenets since September.

Kate Sollitt, executive director of the board, said people were enthusiastic when officials dispensed at the airport, the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce offices, Jackson Whole Grocer and “events around the community.”

“It’s been overwhelming,” she said. “We didn’t think we would go through them that quickly. People love these bags.

“I’ve had people call from all over wanting the bags,” she said, including one woman who asked her for 100 of them to give out at her wedding.

Sollitt said they recently printed another 1,000 bags, with some going to the airport and some to the winter People’s Market, where Slow Food in the Tetons will hand them out.

ISWR has contacted the owners of grocery stores and large retailers, offering to set up outside their doors to give bags to customers.

After the ban’s first phase is complete, “we’ll take a step back and see what worked, what didn’t,” Ziem said.

Officials plan to reassess before November, when the ban’s second phase will mandate that all retailers give up their plastic bags as well.

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