Disposable plastic bags vanishing in Avon; point-of-sale ban goes into effect May 1
HOW DOES AVON DEFINE A ‘DISPOSABLE PLASTIC BAG’?
The Avon plastic-bag ordinance applies to bags made from either non-compostable plastic or compostable plastic provided by a business to a customer at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting goods. The term “disposable plastic bag” does not include bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription drugs; newspaper bags, door-hanger bags, laundry dry-cleaning bags or bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste or yard waste bags; reusable bags; disposable paper bags; bags used by consumers inside stores to package bulk items, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy or small hardware items; bags used contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish, regardless of whether the items are prepackaged; bags used to contain or wrap flowers, potted plants or other items where dampness may be a problem; or bags used to contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods.
AVON — If you live near Avon and like having plastic grocery-store bags around the house for additional use, then you’d better start stockpiling them now. By this time next year, they won’t be available from retailers in town.
An ordinance banning disposable plastic bags, which are currently distributed for free at grocery stores and other retailers in town, passed the council on second reading Tuesday, Oct. 10. Replacing those plastic bags will be paper bags, distributed with a mandatory 10-cent fee imposed by the town and collected by the retailer. The ordinance passed the council by a vote of 4-2 and will go into effect Tuesday, May 1.
DIFFERS FROM VAIL
Nearby Vail instituted a plastic-bag ban in August 2015, an effort that was often mentioned by the Avon Town Council throughout the process, which has been underway since spring and passed first reading in September. Vail’s plastic-bag ban also required a fee on paper bags and has thus far reduced the number of disposable bags distributed from 4 million plastic bags to 300,000 paper bags on an annual basis, according to figures released by the town.
Avon’s bag ban differs from Vail in that it will apply to all retailers; Vail’s was only applied to the big grocery stores in town — City Market and Safeway. For City Market, which also operates in Avon, the universal application of the bag ban will be a welcome divergence from Vail’s policy. Avon City Market Manager Jeff Gentilini said in Vail, a common misconception he heard was that the shop was instituting the ban, not the town.
“We have to be in unison,” he said.
Aside from that detail, Gentilini said he didn’t have an opinion on the ban one way or the other.
FEE FOR ALL
The 10-cent fee was the major sticking point for the Avon Town Council, which was unanimous in its disapproval of single-use bags but divided in how to achieve a reduction of said bags. Calling the fee-collection process onerous and unnecessary, council members Jake Wolf and Megan Burch said they would rather not task businesses with the burden of fee collection and management.
By imposing the fee, the town sentences itself to using those fees for the purpose of the ordinance, which is, in this case, a reduction of waste. Legally, the town cannot allow businesses to keep the entire fee they will charge for paper bags, unless that business uses those fees to further Avon’s goals of waste reduction.
“What I have suggested is that retailers, if they’re eligible, can request to retain the fee but then must sign an agreement with the town that they’ll use that fee for the stated governmental purpose,” Town Attorney Eric Heil told the council. “Remitting the fee to the retailer, a small amount for administration makes sense, but remitting all of it means that they would be used for the same purpose that we would use if we collected it and expended it.”
Avon’s bag ban will allow businesses in town to retain 20 percent of the bag fee for administrative purposes during the first year of the program. After that, 100 percent of those fees will go back to the town.
Burch said she would rather incentivize businesses to come up with creative solutions to reduce the amount of disposable bags distributed in town, a number that’s currently in the millions.
“It just seems like there’s this basic little idea, and it has just become this big bureaucracy that doesn’t make sense,” Burch said. “And I don’t understand why it’s such a critical ‘we have to get this passed right away’ kind of legislation.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Smith Hyme said an incentive approach will also contain administrative burdens, and imposing fees on disposable bags is an important element in waste reduction. Wolf said there’s no way of knowing if fees are necessary unless the town tries a fee-free approach first.
“I feel like we’re intervening in a situation here which could theoretically correct itself,” he said.
Voting in favor of the ordinance were Smith Hymes, Mayor Jennie Fancher and council members Matt Gennett and Scott Prince. Council member Amy Phillips attended the meeting but was not present for the vote.
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