Carbondale wants to look at ban on bags | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale wants to look at ban on bags

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Elected officials in Carbondale appear to be in unanimous support of an outright ban on plastic shopping bags in the town, rather than imposing a fee on bags provided to customers at grocery stores.

Like the Aspen City Council, the Carbondale Board of Trustees on Tuesday tabled a proposed bag fee ordinance and are considering the option of banning plastic bags altogether.

The uniform bag fee ordinance, which would assess of fee of 20 cents on every plastic or paper grocery bag used at grocery stores, is making its rounds to Roaring Fork Valley municipalities from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.

The ordinance is being promoted by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency and local environmental advisory boards as a way to cut back on the use of disposable shopping bags in the region and educate people about the environmental impacts they can cause.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Carbondale board opted to consider a ban on plastic bags instead, and not just for grocers, but for any retail establishment. A fee for the use of paper bags is also still under consideration.

“A fee doesn’t really get to the heart of what we’re trying to do,” Carbondale Trustee Pam Zentmyer said.

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Others on the town board tended to agree.

“The problem here is not the 20 cents … and, economically, I don’t think a fee is the right approach,” Trustee Ed Cortez said.

“The problem is that plastic has a huge environmental impact on our town, the state, the country and globally. I don’t want to see these things end up in our rivers and oceans, or even in our landfills,” Cortez said.

Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot posed the question, “What problem are we really trying to fix here? If the real issue is plastic bags, then it would seem that barring them outright gets us closer to the goal.”

The Aspen City Council is now scheduled to weigh the same question of a ban versus a fee on Oct. 10. The Basalt Town Board is slated to consider the fee ordinance on second reading Sept. 27, after giving its initial approval last week.

Glenwood Springs City Council initially said it was not interested in considering the ordinance, but could take up the question again after seeing what the others do.

The proposed fee, if approved by the municipalities, would be deposited in a special fund held by each jurisdiction. The proceeds would be used to instead provide reusable carryout bags, fund recycling programs and community clean-up events, and educate the public on the impact of disposable bags on the environment.

A portion of the proceeds would also stay with the grocers as a way to offset the cost of implementing the fee program.

Members of the public who spoke at the Carbondale meeting were split on the issue, though most were open to either a ban or a fee on plastic bags.

“I’m against the bag fee, because I believe it would be a hardship on senior citizens,” Carbondale resident Joan Cheney said. “Personally, I take my own bags with me to the store or use paper. I’d rather see you ban plastic bags. None of us ever wanted those flimsy things anyway. We want our paper sacks back.”

Others said the fee might be a good option for the short term, but agreed that a ban would ultimately have more impact.

But Carbondale resident Duane Stewart said government shouldn’t be involved in the issue at all.

“America used to be free, and part of that is the freedom to shop wherever and however we want,” he said. “All these government rules keep taking that freedom away from us.

“I can tell you that, if you pass this ordinance, we will not shop here any longer,” Stewart said.

Carbondale Trustee John Foulkrod said while he understands Stewart’s sentiment about government regulation, over-consumption of plastics has become a problem.

“It’s like radioactive material in its own way, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Foulkrod said. “We need to eliminate plastics in our lives. The right thing is to just stop using them.”

jstroud@postindependent.com