Steamboat teens bring ban or fee on single-use grocery bags before city council
November 11, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A group of Steamboat Springs teens hopes Steamboat Springs City Council will give disposable plastic grocery bags the boot.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, several members of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council will present three policy options related to disposable grocery bags.
- Placing a 10-cent fee on plastic bags
- Banning plastic bags and placing a 10-cent fee on paper bags
- Banning both plastic and paper bags
Teen Council plans to recommend the second option, banning plastic grocery bags and placing a fee on paper bags. Under the Teen Council's plan, people who receive benefits through the supplemental nutrition assistance program would not pay the fee.
At a glance
What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13
Where: Citizens' Meeting Room in Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.
Steamboat Springs City Council will work through a hefty agenda Tuesday night. The following items are up for discussion.
- A determination of where the $1.86 million funding offset would go if voters approve including the city in the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District
- Changes to the city’s rules for commercial outfitters on the Yampa River
- A review of the city’s draft Downtown Plan
- First readings of four ordinances amending the city’s planning and development code
- A resolution that would determine if Brynn Grey Partner’s petition to annex land west of Steamboat complies with state law and is eligible for further consideration
"There's been a lot of talk and positive feedback," said Andrew Peterson, a Steamboat Springs High School senior who serves on the Teen Council’s executive committee and is completing an internship at the city of Steamboat Springs. "I'm really looking forward to seeing what's going to transpire."
Teen Council is an organization that aims to give Routt County teens a voice. It is supported by the city and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
Gretchen Jacobs, another senior at Steamboat Springs High School and member of Teen Council's executive committee, describes it as a "mini city council."
"It's really about empowering teenagers to participate in their community," she said.
Teen Council first got the idea to take on plastic bags when member Quinn Keefe visited a polluted beach during a semester away from Steamboat Springs High School, Peterson said. Keefe knew plastic bags were banned in places like Seattle, and he brought the idea home to Steamboat.
"At the end of the day, some people are saying 'Why would we do it in Steamboat? There's not an ocean near here,'" Jacobs said. "But the reality is that plastic bags travel."
Plastics make their way into the Yampa River and beyond as wind and rainfall wash plastic and microplastics away from roadways and sidewalks.
It can take hundreds of years for plastics to degrade, according to the National Ocean Service. Most plastics do not completely decompose but break up into microplastics.
Microplastics have been found in the stomachs of aquatic organisms from plankton to whales. Researchers are still working to determine if the contaminants these microplastics contain work their way up the food chain.
Though reducing plastic waste is a benefit, Peterson said Teen Council hopes to accomplish other things with a fee on disposable bags.
Eliminating plastic bags in Steamboat would likely make a minuscule dent in the amount of plastics in the world's waterways. There's already an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 megatonnes of plastic already swirling around in the world's oceans, according to a 2017 review written by researchers at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
"It is a benefit in reducing plastic waste, but if you put a fee or a ban on it, with the money from a fee you can do so much more," Peterson said.
He and other Teen Council members will recommend placing revenue from a bag fee into a waste diversion fund, which could help pay for other waste diversion initiatives and education.
Peterson and Jacobs hope the public will attend the meeting Tuesday in support of a bag ban or fee.
"The more people that we get there in support, the better," Jacobs said.