Steamboat’s ban on plastic bags will soon be expanded

Plastic bag bans and fees are nothing new in Steamboat, but incoming state regulations will expand those policies to most stores in town.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, City Council unanimously passed an ordinance meant to align the city’s policies on single-use plastic bags with state regulations included in a house bill that was passed in 2021.

“Steamboat Springs gave plastic the sack and now Colorado as a whole is doing the same through the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act,” the city’s Special Project and Intergovernmental Services Manager Winnie DelliQuadri wrote in a news release.

Much of the groundwork has been done already because the city passed restrictions on plastic bags in 2019, so the ordinance council approved required just a few changes to make local policies align with state requirements.

Plastic bags are already banned in “large markets,” which are defined as stores larger than 10,000 square feet such as Safeway and City Market. Those stores remit a 20-cent fee to the city for each paper bag used.

According to the city’s data, the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee resulted in an initial 85% decrease in the use of single use disposable bags at the four large markets in town.  

But starting next year, the state law requires all stores to pay at least 10 cents for each paper or plastic single-use carryout bag used and remit at least 60% of the fee to the city. Since local plastic bag fee policies are allowed to be more restrictive than the state’s regulations, the city agreed to set the fee at 20 cents per bag in uniform with the city’s current policy for large markets.

The fee will apply to all Steamboat stores including grocery stores, small stores, restaurants, farmers markets, roadside market or stands, festivals and other temporary vendors or an event that includes temporary vendors.

Then in 2024, the state law bans single-use plastic bags in all food retail stores except restaurants. The 20-cent fee still applies to restaurants, however.

Expanded polystyrene containers (styrofoam), which are frequently used for carryout orders, will be banned, including at restaurants.

Violations to these regulations will be given a formal warning on first offense, followed by $50 and $100 fines for the first and second offences after the warning. The third offense after being warned requires a mandatory court appearance and penalties determined by the court. But the state law restricts local governments from enforcing violations on retail food establishments located within a school.

The city’s staff plans to engage in public outreach now that the plastic bag ordinance officially passed.

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