Single-use plastics will no longer be distributed at Hailey city events or in city buildings per a resolution passed by the City Council on Monday evening.

Effective Sept. 1, the resolution prohibits vendors and organizers from handing out single-use plastics such as candy wrappers, plastic forks, straws, saran wrap, Ziploc bags and plastic wrist bands at city-sponsored events including Arborfest and the annual Fourth of July Parade. The resolution also encourages city employees and council members to avoid single-use plastics “whenever possible” while on the job.

“This is a conscious effort to look for better alternatives. The intent here is to bring our own lunches and take our dishes home to wash,” Councilwoman Heidi Husbands said.

Not all city employees will be able to adhere to the new set of guidelines, Mayor Martha Burke said. EMS providers need to use single-use plastics such as gloves and syringes to maintain hygiene, for example, and firefighters and other city employees engaged in physical labor often rely on plastic water bottles for hydration.

“When you’re out working on a road project for eight hours in the heat, insufficient hydration is a problem,” Burke said. “It’s our experience that city employees don’t bring enough of their own water and we often have to provide it for them.”

Public Works Director Brian Yeager commented that street and public works employees don’t have any good alternatives to plastic trash bags or 5-gallon oil cans. City Administrator Heather Dawson agreed, adding that no alternatives to building-permit sleeves or laminated signs currently exist.

Councilman Sam Linnet responded that “necessary evils” like industrial packaging shouldn’t be the target of the resolution—it’s food packaging and water bottle waste that’s more problematic, he said.

“The point of this is not to ban people’s ability to work. The intent is to encourage different behaviors that will reduce the city’s purchase and use of single-use plastics,” Linnet said.

In April, the Hailey council adopted an ordinance initiated by Wood River High School’s W.A.T.E.R. Club to limit single-use plastics at special city events. Under that legislation, all applicants for special event permits are now required to submit environmental resiliency plans detailing what kind of recyclable containers and composting options they plan to use. Monday’s resolution could be thought of as an expansion of the April ordinance, Dawson said.

Due to COVID-19, several of the resolution’s recommendations—like sharing a water cooler among a group as opposed to bringing individual plastic water bottles—aren’t applicable at the moment.

“We can’t get 100 percent away from single-use plastics without impeding on health and safety,” Husbands said.

Linnet agreed.

“Public health and hygiene is important with COVID now, and that ought to be an exception for the time being,” he said. “But going forward, having people bring their own reusable water bottle and cooler is the way to go.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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