CARBONDALE, Colorado - A ban on plastic shopping bags takes effect today at the City Market grocery store in Carbondale, as well as at grocery stores in Aspen.
This means shoppers will either have to bring their own reusable bags, buy paper sacks at the store for 20 cents apiece, or purchase reusable bags.
For the next several months, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) is also providing free reusable bags to local shoppers.
The cloth bags are being made locally in conjunction with the new GarCo Sew Works, a job-training program operated by Colorado Mountain College's Wo/Men in Transition program in Rifle, with support from Garfield County government.
The bags, which are made from reclaimed materials, are being handed out this week at Carbondale Town Hall and at CORE's Carbondale office, located in the Third Street Center.
"We got our first shipment of 350 bags for Carbondale, and have been handing them out at the two locations," said Lindsay Gurley, community energy programs assistant for CORE.
"The program just started up about a week and a half ago, but it was a pretty quick turn-around once they had all the materials and got the machines rolling," Gurley said. "We're hoping to have 5,000 bags to hand out throughout the summer between the two communities."
The Carbondale Board of Trustees passed the bag ban last fall before citizens petitioned to put the question on the April ballot. The bag ban and subsequent 20-cent fee for paper bags was approved by a slim margin, 718 votes in favor to 691 opposed.
Aspen City Council also approved its bag ban last September, affecting that town's two grocery stores, City Market and Clark's Market. A similar measure in Basalt was also challenged by citizens and was shot down in that town's April 3 election.
That leaves Aspen and Carbondale as the only two towns in the Roaring Fork Valley with bans on plastic bags.
The bans, which only affect the larger grocery stores and not the smaller markets and retail shops, were suggested by CORE as a means to cut down on waste and other environmental impacts associated with single-use plastic bags.
CORE was hoping to convince all of the local governments from Aspen to Glenwood Springs to ban plastic bags, while encouraging shoppers to instead bring their own reusable bags to the store. Glenwood Springs City Council discussed the matter but decided to wait to see what the other communities decided to do.
City Market spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said the Carbondale and Aspen stores have been preparing for the change for several weeks.
"All of our employees have gone through training to explain to customers what their options are," McGannon said. "We also have signs up in both locations, alerting customers to the change."
In addition to increasing its stock of paper bags at the two stores, City Market also sells reusable bags. Those bags range in price from 79 cents for a basic cloth bag to $5 for insulated bags.
McGannon said the Carbondale and Aspen City Market stores are the only ones in Colorado to be affected by local plastic bag bans. However, other communities are having the discussion.
"Everybody is looking for options to be more sustainable, and different communities are coming up with different ways to do that," she said. "We support sustainability too, and it's a conversation that is occurring in all of our stores."