Our view: It’s time to ban plastic bags in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: It’s time to ban plastic bags in Steamboat

A request to ban single-use plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on paper bags was brought before the Steamboat Springs City Council last week by three members of the Teen Council. The trio spoke eloquently, and their presentation was backed up by a standing room-only crowd.

Their request came three decades after another group of impassioned residents — carrying fabric reusable bags and calling themselves Environment 2000 — made a similar request to a different council. This time around, City Council appears to be poised to take action.

Steamboat Springs is not blazing the trail on this particular issue. In fact, we could be considered late adopters if the ban moves forward. Many mountain communities already ban single-use plastic bags, and to us, it's a no-brainer for Steamboat to follow suit.

At a glance

At issue:

The City Council is considering a plastic bag ban and possible paper bag fee.

Our View: Steamboat needs to join other Colorado mountain towns that have already taken the environmentally-friendly action of banning plastic bags.

Editorial Board

Logan Molen, publisher
Lisa Schlichtman, editor
Mike Burns, community representative
Melissa Hampton, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

Avon became the latest Western Slope city to outlaw plastic bags with a ban that took effect May 1. They join Telluride, Aspen, Boulder, Breckenridge, Carbondale, Crested Butte, Nederland and Vail as mountain towns that have either banned plastic bags or imposed a fee on them.

According to an article in Forbes, there are 349 cities, counties and state across the U.S. that have in some way banned or taxed plastic bag use.

Reuse This Bag estimates it takes anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose with the bags eventually landing in landfills or in the ocean, and the teens presenting to council last week reported that over 7 million plastic bags were used in Steamboat in one year according to their calculations.

City Council has the option to adopt an ordinance banning plastic bags or the issue can be placed on the ballot for voters to decide. We think the community of Steamboat is ready and willing to embrace a single-use plastic bag ban, and we encourage the council to adopt an ordinance.

In the weeks ahead as the council studies the issue, they'll be considering a number of options, including banning both plastic and paper bags, banning plastic bags and placing a 10-cent fee on paper bags or placing a 10-cent fee on plastic bags. In our opinion, the Teen Council's recommendation of banning plastic bags and assessing a fee on paper bags makes the most sense.

And if council takes that route, we suggest the money generated by the fee be earmarked for waste diversion initiatives rather than being placed in the general revenue fund. For the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee to work, there must be a direct connection between the money generated by the fee and efforts by the city to improve their waste diversion efforts or there's no incentive for anyone to change their behavior.

We think a plastic bag ban can be implemented with very little impact on locals and visitors. Many people in Steamboat already use recyclable bags when they shop, and it would be very easy for hotels and property management companies to provide visitors with reusable bags for their grocery shopping needs along with information explaining the city's plastic bag ban.

And no matter what the outcome, it was great to see a roomful of savvy young people holding signs and offering public comment during a City Council meeting. Their involvement was a beautiful example of the younger generation getting positively engaged in the political process. And who better to lead the charge? After all, it's their environment we're protecting by proposing to ban plastic bags in the first place.

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