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Aspen council to consider plastic-bag ban

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Carbondale Board of Trustees has advanced an amendment to ban plastic bags at the largest retail stores in town.
Aspen Times file

ASPEN – Tuesday’s City Council meeting will feature a proposal to ban plastic bags commonly provided to customers during checkout at the Aspen’s two grocery stores, Clark’s Market and City Market.

The measure, which appeared to have majority council support when discussed at a Sept. 12 meeting, also seeks to impose on shoppers a 20-cent charge for each paper bag provided at checkout.

The overall goal of the ordinance, as the city’s Environmental Health Department has stated, is to reduce the amount of paper- and plastic-bag waste ending up in local landfills. Research shows that only a small percentage of consumers recycle their grocery bags.

“This ordinance has the potential to eliminate a large percentage of plastic bags from Aspen’s environment, while also reducing the amount of single-use paper shopping bags that are used and thrown away by 50-80 percent, thus … benefiting Aspen’s and the global environment,” said environmental health specialist Ashley Cantrell in a recent memo to the council.

The public may comment on the plastic-bag ban and paper-bag fee. The council normally holds its regular meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of each month, but will meet Tuesday because city government employees are off Monday, courtesy of the Columbus Day holiday.

Until the Sept. 12 meeting, the city had been moving toward a fee on plastic and paper bags at the two stores. But councilmen Adam Frisch, Torre and Steve Skadron indicated that they were more in favor of a ban on plastic bags than a fee, directing Cantrell to revamp the ordinance.

Local grocery-store operators, in support of the fee as long as they could derive some of the revenue to cover costs, have voiced displeasure over the move toward an outright ban, Cantrell said in the memo.

“Once the idea of a fee was replaced with a ban on plastic grocery bags, the grocer community has expressed concern over removing customer’s choices and increasing prices,” she wrote.

The city is planning a detailed outreach campaign to educate consumers about the benefits of a ban on plastic bags. The city hopes to involve local businesses and other organizations in an effort to put environmentally friendly, reusable bags in the hands of locals and visitors.

Cantrell wrote that there would be a “phased approach” leading up to the ordinance’s implementation date of May 1.

The city has been working with other Roaring Fork Valley communities to address shopping-bag waste. The Community Office of Resource Efficiency, a regional agency that promotes environmental initiatives, also has been providing information to valley municipalities about the pros and cons of various aspects of fees and bans.

On Sept. 27, the Basalt Town Council voted 6-1 to approve a fee of 20 cents on each plastic and paper bag used at grocery stores starting in May. The fee won out despite objections by Mayor Leroy Duroux, who said Basalt should wait until the Aspen City Council and Carbondale Board of Trustees chart their courses. He said a bag fee or ban must be a regional effort, or Basalt could pay economic consequences.

Meanwhile, Carbondale’s local government has been moving toward a ban on plastic bags and is expected to hold a discussion and final vote on the matter on Oct. 25.

CORE has created a website, http://www.wastefreeroaringfork.org, that contains information about the potential changes.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the developer of the long-discussed Lift One Lodge project near the foot of Aspen Mountain is expected to present more information. A public hearing on that proposal is planned, but a council vote is not expected until later this year.

Plans call for a 27-unit project with 22 timeshare units, five free-market units, 155 subgrade parking spaces and a public restaurant with an apres-ski deck. There also would be a dormitory-style building for employee housing and a ski museum operated by the Aspen Historical Society.

The council meets at 5 p.m. in the basement of Aspen City Hall, 130 S. Galena St.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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