Post Independent Opinion: Impose a fee for one-use bags
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Local governments and community groups have opened the discussion on the best way to wean shoppers off the wasteful practice of single-use shopping bags.
From Carbondale to Aspen, community leaders are talking about a regional approach to cut down on bag consumption and bag litter.
They’re on the right track. It’s high time to quit using single-use bags, whether they’re paper or plastic. The damning environmental evidence of plastic bag litter on land, and specks of partially degraded plastic permeating the ocean, is solidly convincing.
The question is, what is the best approach?
The folks at CORE, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, are proposing a regional, fee-based approach in the Roaring Fork Valley that could be applied only to grocery stores, or to all retailers. We agree on the first two points – regional and fee-based – and argue that the bag policy should apply to all.
A uniform policy throughout the valley makes a lot of sense, giving retailers a level playing field and helping residents and visitors develop habits that work wherever they shop.
In Glenwood Springs, this will mean dealing with large national retailers that may not want to change their bag policy. But these retailers are doing business in other cities, large and small, that have imposed bag bans or fees. It could be a showdown, but we think our valley can lead on this issue and add to the pressure building worldwide against one-use bags.
So, would it be better to ban one-use bags, or impose a fee for each bag a shopper uses? Both methods are being tried in cities and countries around the world.
We favor the fee approach, primarily because it’s an attention getter. If shoppers have to pay an extra 10 to 25 cents per shopping bag, they will eventually realize that it’s an added cost they can avoid simply by bringing reusable bags to the store.
Stores are charging customers for bags now. It’s a cost that’s integrated into every item on the shelves. Charging a bag fee separates the cost of the bag from the things being put into it, and it’s a more honest approach to sales.
In a perfect world, retailers would quit providing free single-use bags, and shoppers would bring or purchase reusable bags at the store. But we’ve known for years about the detrimental effects of plastic bags, and they’re still being used by the thousands.
Shoppers could start reusing their bags today. But it seems that government action will be necessary to change this widespread, wasteful practice and build a simple habit.
We urge local governments and retailers throughout the Roaring Fork Valley to develop a uniform, regional policy requiring all retailers to charge for every one-use bag a customer wants.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.