CORE vows China won’t benefit from valley’s environmentalism
September 29, 2011
ASPEN – The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) is determined not to export jobs to China in an effort to wean shoppers in the Roaring Fork Valley off paper and plastic bags.
CORE Director Nathan Ratledge said the Aspen-based nonprofit organization is making a second effort to find reusable grocery bags that are affordable and made in the U.S. CORE put out a previous request for proposals for bags and got 13 responses back from manufacturers. Most were produced out of the country, Ratledge said. The lowest-priced bags, from China, were available for about 75 cents per bag. The only bags currently available in the U.S. go for about $4 per bag, according to Ratledge.
“We haven’t found the perfect product yet,” Ratledge acknowledged.
The reusable bags are a cornerstone in an effort to build public support for paper and plastic bag fees or bans in the valley. Ratledge said CORE wants to acquire thousands of reusable bags and distribute them – likely for free – to shoppers in towns that enact a single-use bag ban or fee.
The Basalt Town Council approved a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic Tuesday night by a 6-1. The elected boards in Aspen and Carbondale are scheduled to discuss bans and fees in meetings next month.
Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux opposed the town’s fee in part because of a personal, “unscientific” survey he conducted. He said he found 18 reusable grocery bags that have accumulated in his house over the years. Of them, 14 were made in China, two were made in the U.S., and the place of manufacture couldn’t be determined on the remaining two. A bag that CORE gave out in the past was made in China, he noted.
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Duroux said he cannot support exporting jobs to China to further the environmental agenda in the valley. It’s hypocritical to discourage use of single-use bags but ship reusable bags from overseas, he said.
Duroux also objected that Chinese firms don’t have to follow the same regulations on chemical use in the bags, so it’s impossible to tell what exactly goes into the bags. They will eventually end up in landfills.
Ratledge replied at Tuesday’s meeting that he was getting the message loud and clear – and agreed with the sentiment. “We’ll do our best to find the lowest priced reusable bags in the U.S.,” he said.
On Wednesday, Ratledge said he is confident CORE can work with the more promising manufacturers on a solution. The goals will be to find bags that are created with recycled materials as well as affordable and made in the U.S.
A lot of shoppers in the Roaring Fork Valley already have reusable bags, he noted, but giving free ones to those that don’t is a good “carrot” for gaining acceptance of the effort to reduce use of paper and plastic.
CORE had been rushing ahead with the effort to find reusable bags because it initially appeared towns in the valley wanted fees in place by November. Now it appears unlikely any fees or bans will be in place before May.