Green Team wants Basalt to approve grocery bag fee
BASALT – Basalt’s “Green Team” hopes to convince the Town Council to approve a fee on paper and plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores as soon as this spring, the members of the volunteer board decided Wednesday.
The Green Team, which takes the lead on environmental projects and advises the council, hopes to hammer out a proposed ordinance on April 13, then discuss the cause with the council later in the month. In theory, the council could vote on the bag fee as early as May if the issue doesn’t hit a “hiccup” either legally or politically, Town Planner Susan Philp told the environmental group.
The Aspen City Council is also pondering a fee on single-use plastic bags as well as paper bags. It is uncertain if the issue will be voted on this spring or later in the summer, Ashley Cantrell, environmental health specialist for the city of Aspen, told Basalt’s Green Team. Aspen’s municipal elections are in May so that could influence consideration of the political hot potato.
In practical terms, Aspen must also find a way to get travelers staying in hotels and condominiums to embrace the program.
Basalt Green Team members said they see value in coordinating a bag fee with Aspen and other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley, but they want to forge ahead with their own ordinance.
“I don’t want Basalt to get caught up in Aspen’s political issues,” said Katie Schwoerer, a Basalt councilwoman and member of the Green Team.
Green Teamer Tripp Adams concurred. “Why not be the leaders?” he asked.
Virtually all the details need to be worked out in Basalt, although Aspen’s draft ordinance will be used as a template. As the Green Team sees it, a fee of an undetermined amount – potentially 10 to 25 cents – would be charged per bag to shoppers at the El Jebel City Market, Clark’s Market and 7-Eleven. The goal is to reduce the use of plastic bags and promote use of reusable bags. People who bring their own bags wouldn’t pay the fee.
Adams said he doesn’t detect much controversy in Basalt over the proposal. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane assured him it will come once an actual ordinance is proposed.
“The mud is out there. We haven’t discovered it yet,” Kane said.
Cantrell said the proposal has spurred a considerable amount of controversy in Aspen. Critics don’t want the government infringing in another aspect of their lives. Supporters want the government to lead environmentally-friendly action.
Aspen City Councilman Torre wants a bag ban but hasn’t garnered the support of other council members.
The city government posts information about the planning efforts on the bag fee to keep people informed. “We now have a weekly update because this has become such a political issue,” Cantrell said.
Nathan Ratledge, director of the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency, told the Green Team that the key to earning support is to use revenues from the bag fee on environmental projects with widespread appeal. Revenues from the first year will likely be needed for education and to buy reusable bags that can be distributed to shoppers, Cantrell added.
Basalt’s Green Team at its April 13 meeting will ponder such issues as the size of the fee, use of revenues, and how to provide and distribute reusable bags.
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