Steamboat council moves forward with plastic bag ban | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat council moves forward with plastic bag ban

Customers walk out of the Steamboat Springs City Market with carts full of reusable and single-use plastic bags Wednesday afternoon. The city has requested more information from staff to draft an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags. (Photo by Eleanor C. Hasenbeck)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — You could have mistaken the audience at Tuesday night’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting for a group of Little League fans. In a standing-room only chamber filled with signs that read "Bag-Free in the Boat," council members directed staff to bring more information forward so that an ordinance banning single-use plastic grocery bags in the city could be drafted.

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"We are the last mountain town to do this," said Gretchen Jacobs, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School and a member of Teen Council, the organization that brought the proposal before City Council. "People come to Steamboat to see our breathtaking mountains and hike on our endless trails. We don't want them to see plastic, and we also don't want this to be a reason that people pick another mountain town over us."

Three members of Teen Council brought forward a proposal to ban plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on paper bags. Teen Council sought to use the revenue from the fee to fund waste diversion initiatives and education.

Council requested city staff return with more information about fees on paper bags, incentives to encourage people to use reusable bags and about the number of single-use bags in use in the city. Council also sought to learn what bag programs and fees other communities have implemented.

"I'm elated to be part of the city council that 30 years from now can say that we're the ones that banned plastic bags," said council member Lisel Petis. "That literally gives me chills. Hearing from you three, I feel pretty confident right now. I think this is absolutely something we have to do. I think the bigger question is how far can we go … and how exactly are we going to do this?"

At a glance

Colorado communities that have banned or implemented a fee on single-use plastic bags:

  • Aspen
  • Avon
  • Basalt
  • Boulder
  • Breckenridge
  • Carbondale
  • Crested Butte
  • Nederland
  • Telluride
  • Vail

Council received about 14 public comments in support of the measure. Nobody spoke in opposition to the measure at the meeting.

City Market spokesperson Adam Williamson said the grocer is on board. City Market's parent corporation, Kroger, is planning to phase out single-use plastic bags by 2025. The company is working through pilot projects at other stores to determine the best way to transition to reusable bags.

"If the city and the folks that live there want it to go quicker, just utilize those reusable bags," he said. "The more those are used, and the less plastic and paper we have to order, the faster that transition will happen."

Resident Johnny Walker said the effort to move away from plastic bags started decades ago.

"In 1989, we first approached city government from Environment 2000 with the idea of plastic bags," resident Johnny Walker said in public comment. "It was a relatively new idea. It was decided to wait and see what other communities were doing before we really took this leap."

He showed council members a battered reusable bag used to promote that campaign, which he's used since then. He estimated the reusable bag saved over 3,000 plastic bags over its 30 years of use.

"Not using plastic bags may seem like an inconvenience, but it will save our planet from harm," said Steamboat Springs fourth-grader Gavin Wittlinger in public comment. "Our oceans are already full of it, and animals are dying from eating it. Think of the world kids now will inherit in like 20 years when you make this decision."

Andrew Peterson, Gretchen Jacobs and Quinn Keefe, members of Teen Council and seniors at Steamboat Springs High School, pose with reusable bags Teen Council members handed out to audience members attending Steamboat Springs City Council’s discussion on single-use plastic bags. (Photo by Eleanor C. Hasenbeck)

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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