Aspen bag ban set to begin |

Aspen bag ban set to begin

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – With Aspen’s ban on plastic bags provided at grocery-store checkout poised to start May 1 – a mere seven weeks from now – city employees and the two stores are gearing up for a change in shopping habits that’s sure to rattle some customers and inspire others.

The ban, approved by the City Council in October, is an initiative the city’s Environmental Health Department spearheaded last year. It prohibits Aspen’s two grocery stores, City Market and Clark’s Market, from giving customers plastic bags, which many consider environmentally unfriendly. It encourages the use of reusable bags, but if a customer doesn’t have one the grocery stores will sell them a paper bag for a 20-cent fee on each bag.

The city will garner most of the proceeds to help fund its sustainability programs, but the stores will get to keep a share of the revenue to help with various costs associated with the change, including their own efforts to educate the public.

Ashley Cantrell, the city’s sustainability coordinator, said Thursday that an outreach campaign to educate consumers about the change will intensify over the coming weeks and months. Earlier this week at a City Council work session, she provided an update on the bag-ban program and its many facets.

“We’re trying to encourage businesses and individuals to start thinking about this and to get involved now,” she said. “We can help you find bags. We can help businesses to pair up with other businesses to order bags. We want everybody to get in the habit of bringing their bags to the stores and show they’re proud that Aspen did this.”

The Environmental Health Department currently provides reusable bags to anyone who needs one, she said. The city also has joined forces with the nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency to purchase reusable bags from GarCo Sewing Works Training and Design Center, a fledgling sewing operation in Rifle. That company, a partnership of Colorado Mountain College and Garfield County, will use repurposed materials from outdoor recreation companies to create reusable bags that will be made available to the public at affordable prices.

In a few weeks, the department will embark upon a public-awareness campaign that will identify local shoppers who use reusable bags. The details are still being worked out, but it will basically highlight people who are supporting the city’s program in practice if they don’t mind being placed in the spotlight. The city might use its social-media Internet pages to recognize those who are found with reusable bags at grocery stores, Cantrell said, adding that the process has yet to be fully formulated.

“We’re playing off the idea that any regular person shopping at the grocery store with a reusable bag can suddenly become famous because of their choice,” she said. “The idea is, you want to get spotted, now’s the time to bring out your bag, use it proudly, convince your neighbors to do the same and start getting in the habit.”

She said the initiative is aimed at creating enthusiasm for the practice of using reusable bags.

“We’re not shaming anyone; we just want to create a sense of positivity around the idea of bringing your bags,” Cantrell said.

Environmental Health Department staff also are partnering with local hotels, property-management companies, businesses and nonprofit organizations to educate visitors and residents about the plastic-bag ban, she said. Shoppers are being encouraged not to use compostable and biodegradable bags, which tend to be for one-time use and don’t fit the city’s profile of an environmentally friendly bag.

Kelli McGannon, spokeswoman for City Market stores, said the East Cooper Avenue store is on board to help implement the city’s plastic-bag ban.

“We will always comply with the laws of the towns and cities that we operate in,” she said. “We’re working toward making sure our store will be able to accommodate this starting on the first of May. It’s something new for us, but I’m certain it will be a smooth transition.”

Customers have been apprised of the change, she said.

“I think customers are a little confused by the process, but they will have a better understanding as we move forward,” McGannon said. “Many of our customers are like us – they would have much preferred an education plan rather than legislating it.”

Tom Clark Jr., president of Clark’s Market, could not be reached for comment. But Cantrell said she’s working closely with the grocery store off North Mill Street to ensure that all goes well.

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