Aspen unveils its grocery bag-fee plan |

Aspen unveils its grocery bag-fee plan

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The city of Aspen has unveiled a proposed ordinance that seeks to charge grocery-store customers 20 cents for each plastic or paper bag used in sacking their items.

The ordinance is on the agenda for the Aspen City Council’s Monday meeting. Since the proposal is being introduced on “first reading,” no public hearing will be held, but some discussion among city officials is likely. Area citizens will get their chance to fully weigh in on the matter when the ordinance comes up for “second reading” and a possible final vote on Sept. 12.

City officials have been discussing the possibility of a bag fee for the last few years. It is hoped that by implementing a charge on each disposable bag, local consumers will get in the habit of bringing their own reusable bags to stores as an alternate method of carrying home groceries.

The overall aim of the ordinance is to cut down on the use and production of plastic bags, which are made from petroleum products and seen as environmentally unfriendly because consumers rarely recycle them. Paper bags, made from forest products, are included in the measure as well.

After receiving input from councilmembers in January, city environmental health specialist Ashley Cantrell began shaping the ordinance with cooperation from area grocers and local governments of other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Community Office of Resource Efficiency also got involved, facilitating a regional approach that puts Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale on the same page with similarly crafted ordinances, CORE director Nathan Ratledge said.

“We’re not trying to drive it; we just wanted to make sure all the groups were talking and working together so that there was consistency, and also to make sure that citizens’ voices were heard,” Ratledge said.

Basalt Town Council will introduce its ordinance on Tuesday. The Carbondale Board of Trustees will take up its proposal on Sept. 13. The two towns have been eyeing 20-cent fees as well, but the amount could change during the discussion and approval process.

Cantrell said she’ll explain the details of what’s being called a “waste reduction fee ordinance” at Monday’s meeting. A memorandum from Cantrell to the council and Mayor Mick Ireland outlines numerous aspects of the proposal. Revenue from the fee will be collected monthly and will be deposited into a “waste reduction account” to be used only for:

• Educating residents, businesses and visitors about the impact of trash on the city’s environmental health, the importance of reducing the amount of fossil fuel energy used to make disposable bags and the effect of the bags on the waterways and the environment.

• Providing reusable carryout bags to residents and visitors.

• Funding programs and infrastructure that allow the Aspen community to reduce waste and recycle.

• Purchasing and installing equipment designed to minimize trash pollution, including recycling containers and waste receptacles.

• Funding community cleanup events and other activities that reduce trash.

• Maintaining a website that educates residents on the progress of waste-reduction efforts.

The memo also states that the city will begin its informational campaign to educate the public after the ordinance’s passage; implementation of the fee is set for Nov. 15.

Because local grocers will have to train employees and alter their checkout methods, they will be allowed to keep 5 percent of the collected fees, but only up to $100 per month in the first year. After that, they can collect up to $25 per month.

“Aspen considers itself an environmental leader, and this topic presents an opportunity for the city to continue to take a progressive stance on environmental issues,” Cantrell wrote.

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