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Mountain News: Park City adopts ban on free plastic grocery bags



PARK CITY, Utah — Jennifer Gardner got ridiculous to make a point. Appearing before the Park City Council, she wore a wig fashioned out of plastic bags.

She told the city council that if plastic bags were prohibited, people will learn to use reuseable bags. "It is not big deal. We will all just learn," she said.

And the council agreed, putting the kibosh on single-use plastic bags such as those given out by grocery stores. The law will apply principally to three larger grocery stores in Park City.

A memo given the city council by the town's sustainability officer said more than 230 such bans had been adopted by municipalities or county governments in the United States. As well, two states have banned plastic bags: Hawaii and California.

Among ski towns, Telluride was the first to adopt a ban. It was followed by Aspen, Breckenridge, and Vail, among others.

In Vail, there were a "few hiccups and a couple of bumps," said Kristen Bertuglia, the town's director of sustainability, "but it was really not the big catastrophe that many people thought it would be."

Vail bans plastic bags but allows grocery stores to sell paper bags, at a cost of 10 cents each. The money goes to a fund for recycling. Before the ban began in August 2015, stores were giving out 3.5 million plastic shopping bags a year. There has been some gain in the sale of the paper bags, about 300,000 a year.

Locals quickly adapted, and lodges have been supportive by providing reusable bags to their patrons with the brands of their hostelries. If all else fails, customers can buy reusable bags at the stores for just $1.

If Vail's ban hasn't resulted in any lessening of the expanding swirl of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, it has "drastically reduced" the plastic bags found in Vail. "We just don't see the plastic base waste we used to see, hung up in bushes or trees or in Gore Creek," said Bertuglia.

The Park Record reported pushback at the public meeting from the Utah Food Industry Association. One prediction is that the Utah legislature will override Park City's ban. Legislators in neighbouring Idaho and several other states have adopted laws precluding local authority to enact bans.

Like many other plastic bans, Park City's new law exempts a great many plastic bags, including those used to package bulk items, wrap flowers, and cover dry-cleaned clothes.

What do our statues say about us?

ASPEN, Colo. — Two years ago this June, a 21-year-old white supremacist slipped into a church in Charleston, S.C., and after praying with the parishioners, all of whom were black, he shot and killed nine of them.

The shooting re-ignited the long-simmering conversation about symbols. The convicted killer, Dylann Roof, had posed for photos with the flag of the Confederacy. While some argued that the flag represented regional pride, others had said no, that the Confederacy was all about preserving slavery, and in particular the slavery of black people.

That conversation continued in 2015 the month after the massacre in a riveting session at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Walter Isaacson, then the chief executive of the Aspen Institute, interviewed jazz giant Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste, the band leader for Late Night With Stephen Colbert. Isaacson is white, the two musicians are black, but all three are natives of New Orleans.

For decades ,there had been discussion in New Orleans about whether 19th-century statues that paid tribute to Confederate leaders should be toppled. The most prominent statue honours Robert E. Lee, the leading Confederate general, while others honoured Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and another general, P.G.T. Beauregard.

Marsalis said he believed the Robert E. Lee statue had to go. Lee had never fought for New Orleans, and the statue was erected decades after the Civil War during a time when whites were abolishing the bi-racial government and re-asserting white supremacy.

A statue at a city's centre should celebrate what that city is about, said Marsalis. A statue honouring a general of the Confederacy, which was first and foremost about preserving slavery, should not be what New Orleans is about.

The principle is true in New Orleans, he went on to say, but also more broadly across the United States.

"Our history has both strains, a strain of terrible and ignorant things and the strain of wonderful things," Marsalis said. "So the question of our symbols is always important because your symbols will determine what aspect of your personality do you choose to embody."

We need to choose our symbols well, he went on to say.

"When all of our symbols are a celebration of smallness, it will lead us to doing things that are small. When our symbols are big, they will lead us to big things," he said.

Earlier this month, New Orleans began toppling its statues.

"These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who had been to Aspen for the Ideas Festival. "I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it."

First to be removed in the dark of night by workers wearing bullet-proof vests was a statue erected to honour the white supremacist of the late 19th century who had imposed segregation and Jim Crow laws. Landrieu called it the most odious of all the statues. Then the Jefferson Davis statue came down, and by the time you read this, those honouring the two generals may have been removed.

In the Aspen area, a resident took to Facebook to share his conflicted feelings. Ken Neubecker said he had ancestors who had fought on both sides of the Civil War, and he thought they all meant well. But those who died fighting for the Confederacy were "wrong, damn wrong, and deserve no such honour as a monument."

Robert E Lee, if a brilliant soldier and devoted to the South, was also "wrong. Very wrong. He himself recognized that in his last years."

Even Aspen has a statue on the grounds of the Pitkin County courthouse. It consists of a male soldier, rifle in hand, dressed in what appears to be the clothing and hat of a Union soldier. The text, however, is neutral, honouring "soldiers of 1861-1865." Megan Cerise Winn, archive technician at the Aspen Historical Society, said the local cemetery has a Civil War section, with soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

In 1901, the year Aspen's statue was erected, the Aspen Democrat observed the dwindling number of Civil War veterans. "As the survivors of the rebellion go down one by one into the grave, the bitterness and rancor of those terrible days dwindle away and the bond of good fellowship binds the veterans of the blue and the gray more closely together. All the spite and venom of the days when Yank and Rebel clashed together have died out, and nothing remains but the spirit of brotherly love."

Perhaps the newspaper spoke too soon.

Gateway town hoping to lessen wildlife attractions

CANMORE, Alta. — A new law seeks to make Canmore, at the gateway to Banff National Park, less attractive to bears and other wildlife.

The new law makes feeding wildlife subject to a $500 fine, while failing to remove fruit that has fallen from a tree can result in a $100 fine. Same goes for having a bird feeder or nectar accessible to wildlife.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook said that crabapple trees have become a magnet for black bears, with upwards of 20 bruins being captured and removed from the community in 2016.

A volunteer program has had great success, with people at 30 homes volunteering to have their fruit trees removed.

Aspen raising age for purchase of tobacco

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen's elected officials last week have taken the first step to making the city the first municipality in Colorado to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

This is in accordance with a nationwide effort called Tobacco 21 initiative that aims to match the legal age for purchasing tobacco with that of liquor. If approved at a second and final hearing in June, reported the Aspen Times, it will take effect Jan. 1.

Dr. Harvey Mitchell told council members that 90 per cent of lifelong smokers started before they were 18. He said studies show that 8.6 per cent of Colorado high school-aged residents are daily smokers, while 26 per cent say they have tried e-cigarettes.

The ordinance would apply to purchases not only of tobacco products, but such nicotine devices as vapourizers and e-cigarettes.

Both Hawaii and California have specified 21 as the minimum age for tobacco purchase.