Carbondale set to consider disposable bag fee
CARBONDALE, Colorado – Town trustees will hold a public hearing at their regular meeting tonight to consider a new ordinance requiring grocers to charge a 20-cent-per-bag fee to customers who use disposable paper or plastic bags when they buy their groceries.
The proposed ordinance is similar to the ones recently passed on initial readings by the Basalt Board of Trustees and Aspen City Council.
A similar proposal to bring an ordinance up for consideration in Glenwood Springs was rejected by City Council last month. However, the Glenwood council did leave the door open for the issue to be reconsidered after the other municipalities have acted.
“This ordinance has the potential to reduce the amount of single-use shopping bags that are used and thrown away, by 50 to 85 percent,” according to a memo from Carbondale’s advisory Environmental Board and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE).
CORE is recommending that Carbondale adopt the ordinance, and is encouraging the other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley to do so for the sake of consistency.
“The subject of paper and plastic bag use in towns like Carbondale and countries around the world is well-documented,” according to the memo. “Reliable data is available from several sources … and over 80 national and local governments have taken action to reduce single-use bags.”
Locally, communities in the Roaring Fork Valley have helped organize outreach campaigns in recent years to try to reduce the amount of disposable bags being used by consumers. That effort has included distributing reusable cloth bags for people to use instead.
“Despite these efforts, grocers report that there is no noticeable reduction in the use of single-use bags at grocery stores,” CORE notes. “This evidence suggests that although visitors and citizens would like to see a reduction in bag use, voluntary outreach programs are not effective ways to reduce consumption.”
Under the proposed ordinance, a 20-cent fee for each paper or plastic bag provided to a customer at check-out would be tacked on to the grocery bill.
The fee is to be deposited in a Disposable Bag Fee Fund within each municipality, proceeds from which are to be used in seven areas:
• To provide reusable carryout bags to residents and visitors.
• To fund programs and infrastructure locally to reduce waste and promote recycling, including pickup and disposal of bags.
• To educate the public on the impact of disposable bags, and trash in general, on the environment.
• To purchase and install more recycling containers and waste receptacles around town.
• To fund community clean-up events that reduce trash.
• To maintain a public website that provides information on the progress of waste reduction efforts.
• To pay for the administration of the bag fee program.
A portion of the fee is proposed to stay with the grocers as a way to offset the cost to update scanning systems and train employees on how to collect the fee. The Carbondale ordinance recommends grocers keep 5 percent of the fees collected monthly, up to $1,000 per month in the first year and $100 per month starting in the second year of the program.
City Market stores already offer a 5-cent refund per bag for customers who do bring their own reusable bags. Other chains offer similar incentives.
Most larger grocery chains also include the cost of disposable bags in the overall price of food and other groceries, according to information provided in the Carbondale Board of Trustees packet for tonight’s meeting
The packet includes several pages of information on the issue of bag fees, both pro and con, and the impact of plastic bags on the environment in general.
The bag fee proposal is not without opposition.
“This tax is not wanted by the general public,” writes resident Linda Hayes, whose letter is included in the packet. “Government needs to stay out of the policies of businesses. Charging for bags will hurt our local markets, because those of us who feel this is a misuse of government will buy from places where the bags are free.”
The agenda and packet for tonight’s Carbondale board meeting can be viewed at http://www.carbondalegov.org. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Carbondale Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave. The bag ordinance hearing is tentatively slated to begin at 7:20 p.m.
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