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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jane Fernandez bags groceries in reusable bags as she rings up Marisa Osborn, left, and Helena Cooper at The Market at Park City on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Park City banned single-use plastic bags in May 2017, and now Moab has followed suit.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Moab City Council voted unanimously to trash single-use plastic bags at retail stores, becoming the second community in Utah to adopt such a ban.

Moab on Monday followed the lead of Park City, which voted in May 2017 to prohibit the widely used plastic bags. It was the first community in Utah to institute a ban.

"It has been very well received by our residents," said Luke Cartin, Park City's environmental sustainability manager.

"There was strong resident support."

Moab leaders adopted the prohibition as part of a move to invoke more environmentally sustainable policies.

"These specific types of plastic bags disintegrate into pieces, but they never completely go away," said Moab spokeswoman Lisa Church.

"In a landfill they blow all over the place," she said, becoming a visual nuisance and a threat to aquatic species and other wildlife.

The ban, which takes effect Jan. 1, does not apply to laundry dry cleaner bags, newspaper bags or bags used for garbage, pet waste or yard waste. It also excludes disposable paper bags or bags used for produce, nuts or candy.

Church said the effort began earlier this summer, with the ban discussed in several meetings before the vote. In the coming months, the city will begin a public education campaign aimed at residents and businesses.

There was some initial concern of how the ban might be received by visitors to the tourist town, but Church said city leaders worked through their concerns.

"Many of the visitors who come here already live in places where plastic bags aren't used and they are used to carrying their own bags."

The European Union, China and India ban single-use plastic bags and multiple U.S. cities are also making the move.

San Francisco was among the first with a ban adopted in 2007.

Plastic bags are a landfill nightmare and a significant portion of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, ran legislation multiple years to institute a statewide 10-cent fee on single-use bags as an incentive to ditch the plastic. The measures were repeatedly shot down by her GOP counterparts.

In her research, Iwamoto found that Utah residents dispose of 940 million plastic bags each year. Although stores may include onsite recycling bins to encourage their disposal and reuse, only a small fraction — 1 to 3 percent — end up getting recycled.

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Plastic bags have even become a problem at material handling facilities because they get caught in the machinery designed to separate rigid products such as cans, bottles and paper. Rocky Mountain Recycling estimates that up to 30 percent of its labor costs come from its workers having to remove the plastic bags that get caught up in sorting machines.

The Center for Biological Diversity says Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and each family uses about 1,500 bags a year.

A study by the European Commission found that 90 percent of birds have plastic in their stomachs. Also, beaked marine life such as whales eat the plastic bags, mistaking them for squid.