Carbondale may look beyond the plastic bag ban
Two months after Carbondale leaders balked at banning plastic bags at every store, the town’s Environmental Board is back with a new proposal.
Or rather, several proposals, including developing a plan to reduce most kinds of plastics, from bottles to straws, joining other recycling advocacy groups, and, yes, expanding the bag ban.
If the goal is a reduction in plastic use, expanding the bag ban to more Carbondale retailers won’t make a huge difference by itself, but it’s still an important step, says Frosty Merriott, former town trustee and member of the appointed Environmental Board.
“I think the proclamation to come up with an orderly reduction of all single-use plastic is more valuable, quite frankly, than the bag ban,” Merriott said. “But the bag ban has been successful, so I’d like to see us build on that and send that message, because it will help in the education of the general public.”
The E-board, as its known in Carbondale, would like the town to declare Tuesday “freedom from single-use plastic day,” and commit to having a strategic plan in place by the next Earth Day, April 22, 2020.
That doesn’t mean the group isn’t pushing for an expanded bag ban. At a May meeting, the town Board of Trustees declined to extend the bag ban town-wide, but Merriott thinks it’s still important to increase the number of stores that don’t provide plastic shopping bags.
“What we tried to do was reduce the scope of the expansion of the plastic bag ban so it didn’t just go town-wide for all establishments,” Merriott said.
The E-board recommended two options that would include five or six stores in the bag ban.
Currently, grocery stores of more than 3,500 square feet are not allowed to provide plastic bags to shoppers, and charge 20 cents for single-use paper bags.
The current ban only affects City Market, but the E-board would like to extend the ban to retailers, as well. That would affect Ace Hardware, the Roaring Fork Valley Co-op along Highway 133, Dollar Tree, Basalt Bike and Ski, Napa Auto Parts, and Sopris Liquor and Wine.
The E-board also suggested raising the square footage limitation to 9,000 square feet, which would exempt Basalt Bike and Ski from the ban.
Merriott believes the board will at least agree to a proclamation, and the commitment to create a realistic plan by next year.
At the May meeting, Mayor Dan Richardson suggested doing something more comprehensive, rather than merely expanding the bag ban.
“We’re shooting too low with the message that we want to ban the remainder of bags in town,” Richardson said.
“How can we focus our efforts so that in 2020 we launched something that really is powerful, hopefully beyond what we’re talking about right now? I think there’s great potential there and I think there’s certainly the ability within our community to do something like that,” he said.
The bag ban “in and of itself isn’t going to make a big reduction in the plastic poisoning of our earth,” Merriot said, but it is a step in the right direction.
“The greater issue is not just plastic bags, it’s single use plastic drink bottles, what gets wrapped around packages at the grocery store, etc. The plastics pollution has kind of risen to a point where a lot of people are realizing how much it’s a harm to the environment,” Merriott said.
The E-board would like the trustees to use money collected from paper bag sales to fund a consultant to work on the issue.
“The E-board has spent a good bit of time on this issue, so we’d like to use some of the fees to get a part-time consultant to help the town of Carbondale figure out realistic goals to reduce plastic,” Merriott said.
The bag fund this year is currently seeing declining revenue for the first year since the ban went into effect in 2012.
“Revenues from bag sales had the first year of decreases,” according to a town report. From June 2018 through April 2019, the fund raised $18,457, nearly 10 percent less than the prior period.
The E-board would also like to join Recycle Colorado to lobby for plastic reduction at the state Legislature.
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