Carbondale tables total plastic bag ban, for now |

Carbondale tables total plastic bag ban, for now

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The Carbondale Board of Trustees declined Tuesday to extend the plastic bag ban to all town stores, and asked for a more comprehensive approach to reduce single-use plastics.

The Carbondale Environmental Board voted unanimously at its April 22 meeting to recommend extending the bag ban to all stores in town, but the mayor and Board of Trustees were reluctant to extend the policy without more research and a more considered plan.

Carbondale’s plastic bag ban, which took effect May 2012, currently affects only City Market. Single-use plastic bags are nowhere to be seen in the store, and paper bags are available for a 20-cent surcharge.

The bag ban ballot measure passed by a slim margin in 2012, but a 2016 survey conducted for the Climate Protection and Energy Plan indicates Carbondale is ready for a more expansive ban.

Out of 400 survey respondents, 71 percent favored a town-wide ban on single-use plastic bags for all stores, and 51 percent supported a ban on single-use plastic bottles. Only 23 percent of the survey respondents said they would not support either policy.

Carbondale trustees were supportive of the goal of reducing or even eliminating single-use plastics, but urged a more cautious approach to avoid unintended consequences.

Trustee Ben Bohmfalk asked whether the bag ban itself is really the best direction for the town to go, and wanted to see empirically proven results before supporting an extended ban, comparing it to the town’s climate policies, which have been years in the making.

“Obviously, Carbondale’s climate policy isn’t going to change the world, but the policies that we enact are really solid policies, not just kind of feel-good things and all that,” Bohmfalk said. “We do things that, if everybody did this, it would really have this major impact. So, I just want to make sure we’re doing those kinds of things.”

Mayor Dan Richardson said he was concerned with the negative connotations of a ban, and wanted to take time to conduct outreach to businesses to perhaps come with a commitment to end single-use plastics.

Richardson said there should be some way to get to an even bigger policy in the next few years.

“We’re shooting too low with the message that we want to ban the remainder of bags in town,” Richardson said.

“How can we focus our efforts so that in 2020 we launched something that really is powerful, hopefully beyond what we’re talking about right now? I think there’s great potential there and I think there’s certainly the ability within our community to do something like that,” he said.

Environmental Board member and former Trustee Frosty Merriott said he had hoped for a vote on extending the ban, because there has been little progress since the City Market ban.

“Now we’re seven years later and we still can’t get there. That’s bothersome to me, because I still feel it’s the right thing to do,” Merriott said.

Merriott said an extended ban is not just about the effects of using less plastic, but about setting an example.

“I think it’s important for Carbondale to lead by example. We’ve done that so many times on so many different things, and it’s got other people to move in that direction,” Merriott said.

Three students from Colorado Rocky Mountain School also spoke in favor of the expanded ban as an incremental step toward larger plastic reduction.

“It’s a step along the way. When we think of trying to get people to accept an all-out, one-use plastic ban that we were talking about in the future, that would be almost impossible if they don’t have a kind of baby step along the way,” student Sarah Teague said.

“We won’t get lazy unless we let ourselves get lazy, and we are the people who will make sure Carbondale does not get lazy on this issue,” she said.