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May 2, 2012
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First day of Aspen's plastic-bag ban goes smoothly

ASPEN - Tuesday was no ordinary day at Aspen's two grocery stores, as droves of locals went shopping armed with reusable bags. Those who weren't prepared paid the price - 20 cents per paper bag.

Still others got creative: Shoppers could be seen cramming groceries into backpacks, hauling shopping carts to waiting cars to unload and simply carrying their goods out of the store in their bare hands.

"So far, so good," said John Hailey, manager of the Aspen City Market. "I think everyone was well-prepared. In fact, we saw a lot of people coming in over the last week or two with reusable bags."

The bag brouhaha was the result of a recently passed city ordinance that prohibits the stores from offering shoppers single-use, plastic bags. Paper is still available for a fee. A similar law went into effect Tuesday in Carbondale.

Checkers at both City Market and Clark's Market in Aspen said they had a few disgruntled customers come through their aisles - one was especially upset, and even more confused, about why he couldn't just "have" a small paper bag for his soup. But mostly, people had their reusable bags in tow and seemed fine with the change.

In fact, the general sentiment from store managers, clerks and customers was that it will just take some getting used to - especially when tourists return to town.

"Now that will be the real test," Hailey said. "I imagine we'll have a few more upset customers, but they'll adjust."

Toward that end, both City Market and Clark's are doing all they can to make the transition from plastic to canvas smooth by selling the latter for anywhere from 79 cents to $5. The city of Aspen - which instituted the ban in an effort to cut down on waste associated with single-use plastic bags while encouraging consumers to use their own reusable bags - also has been giving out free bags. Plus, a campaign to educate hotel staff members so they can inform their guests is under way.

"I think it's going as well as could be expected," Hailey said.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated May 2, 2012 08:01AM Published May 2, 2012 01:12AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.