City unveils bag-fee plan |

City unveils bag-fee plan

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

The city of Aspen has unveiled a proposed ordinance that seeks to charge grocery-store customers 20 cents for each plastic or paper bag used in sacking their items.

The ordinance is on the agenda for the Aspen City Council’s meeting Monday. Since the proposal is a “first reading,” there will be no public hearing, but some discussion among city officials is likely. Area residents will get their chance to weigh in on the matter when the ordinance comes up for second reading and a possible final vote on Sept. 12.

City officials have been discussing the possibility of a bag fee for the past few years. The city hopes that by implementing a charge on each disposable bag, local consumers will get in the habit of bringing their own reusable bags to stores as an alternate method of carrying home groceries.

The overall aim of the ordinance is to cut down on the use and production of plastic bags, which are made from petroleum products and have the reputation of being environmentally unfriendly because consumers rarely recycle them. The measure includes paper bags as well.

After receiving input from council members in January, city environmental health specialist Ashley Cantrell began shaping the ordinance with cooperation from area grocers and governments of other localities in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Community Office of Resource Efficiency also got involved, facilitating a regional approach that puts Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale on the same page with similarly crafted ordinances, CORE director Nathan Ratledge said.

“We’re not trying to drive it; we just wanted to make sure all the groups were talking and working together so that there was consistency, and also to make sure that citizens’ voices were heard,” Ratledge said.

Basalt Town Council will introduce its ordinance on Tuesday. The Carbondale Board of Trustees will take up its proposal on Sept. 13. The two towns have been eyeing 20-cent fees as well, but the amount could change during the discussion and approval process.

Cantrell said she’ll explain the details of what the city is calling a “waste reduction fee ordinance” at Monday’s meeting. A memorandum from Cantrell to the council and Mayor Mick Ireland outlines numerous aspects of the proposal. The city will collect revenue from the fee monthly and deposit it into a “waste reduction account” exclusively for the use of:

• Educating residents, businesses and visitors about the impact of trash on the city’s environmental health, the importance of reducing the amount of fossil fuel energy used to make disposable bags and the effect of the bags on the waterways and the environment.

• Providing reusable carryout bags to residents and visitors.

• Funding programs and infrastructure that allow the Aspen community to reduce waste and recycle.

• Purchasing and installing equipment designed to minimize trash, including recycling containers and waste receptacles.

• Funding community cleanup events and other trash-reducing activities.

• Maintaining a website that educates residents on the progress of waste-reduction efforts.

The memo also states that the city will begin its informational campaign to educate the public after the ordinance’s passage; implementation of the fee is set for Nov. 15.

Because local grocers will have to train employees and alter their checkout methods, they may keep 5 percent of the collected fees, but only up to $100 per month in the first year. After that, they can collect up to $25 per month.

“Aspen considers itself an environmental leader, and this topic presents an opportunity for the city to continue to take a progressive stance on environmental issues,” Cantrell wrote.

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