Sick of the “urban tumbleweed, ” as Hill County Sanitarian Clay Vincent referred to plastic shopping bags blowing around town, local leaders met Tuesday afternoon to stop it.
Hill County Commissioners Kathy Bessette and Jeff LaVoi, Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, Recycle Hi-Line Chair Candi Zion, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Vandeberg and Walmart Assistant Manager Christine Muller met with Vincent in the basement of the Hill County Courthouse to talk about the problem and what can be done.
“We’ve all seen them. We’ve all dealt with them, ” Vincent said. “The landfill has had an awful time trying to handle them. ”
The group — which Vincent was hoping would have included more bag sources than just Walmart, such as Kmart, Gary & Leo’s Fresh Foods and some stores from the Holiday Village Mall — talked about what the businesses, governments or people could do.
Gary & Leo’s already offers 10 cents off an order per bag customers bring to the store, eliminating the use of a new bag. And Walmart provides a place to recycle the bags. However, the group agreed that these efforts are not enough.
People discussed charging customers 10 cents per plastic bag a store provides.
Solomon said that he is talking to Pacific Steel and Recycling about placing a recyclables bin at 1st Street and 5th Avenue permanently, where one usually goes only on the bi-annual Havre Pride Day.
He also said the city’s Ordinance Committee was planning to meet soon to discuss legislative options, though no council or committee members attended Tuesday’s planning meeting.
LaVoi said he admired how Calgary, Alberta, had turned around a similar situation up there, with separated curbside recycling pickup, enforced by law and punishable by fines.
Vincent said that people are sick of new laws and rules, but if people continue to refuse to responsibly handle their plastic waste, something needs to be done.
“It’s going to be a struggle, ” Vincent said. “In a windy area, we’re going to have to deal with it every day. You hate to ban them — people use them — but there’s just so many of them. ”
He said people might not like having to pay more for bags at a store or to pay for recycling services to be implemented but described the hidden costs of these bags that people are already paying for this waste, including increased landfill fees and new wages, like a new employee recently hired to work four hours every day picking up floating plastic bags across the county.
“You’re going to pay for it one way or the other, ” Vincent said.
Want to help cut down on citywide messes?
• Recycle extra plastic bags at Walmart
• Bring your own bags to get a discount at Gary & Leo’s.
• Find information about other recycling opportunities at http://www.recyclehiline.wordpress.com