Steamboat’s small businesses invited to join plastic bag ban

As Steamboat prepares for the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee, smaller business can volunteer to participate

A plastic bag sits abandonded on a street.
Shutterstock/stock image

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With less than two weeks until Steamboat Springs’ grocery stores give plastic bags the boot, the city has opened up applications for small businesses to join in the ban with its opt-in program.

On May 21, Steamboat Springs City Council voted 4-3 to ban plastic bags and place a 20-cent fee on paper bags at Steamboat’s largest stores. Smaller stores will be allowed to voluntarily opt in to the program. The change will take effect Oct. 1.

While the city recently opened its application for small businesses to opt in to the program, called “Spur Change,” it’s also working to purchase 22,000 reusable bags to be distributed to visitors and community members, which will be available before the end of the month. There will also be people stationed outside of Steamboat’s biggest stores reminding folks that the bag ban will take effect soon and answering questions.

Walmart, Walgreens, City Market and Safeway — the stores required to stop giving customers disposable plastic grocery sacks — will be allowed to keep 5 cents of the 20-cent paper bag fee. Natural Grocers was also on the list, but the chain doesn’t use plastic bags.

The ordinance establishing the ban also allowed smaller stores that are not required to ban plastic to participate in the ban and fee. Stores that participate will be able to keep the entire 20-cent fee on paper bags.

“You’re able to participate in a community wide effort to change how we do things here and be more environmentally conscious,” said Mike Lane, the city’s communications manager. “All along the process, we heard from smaller companies that wanted to jump in and be a part of it, so this allows them that opportunity to get in there and participate just like the big retailers.”

To participate, business managers should visit The application can be found under the “Plastic & Paper Bags” tab.

“It’s not like you won’t get approved, but you basically apply to alert the city to the fact that you’re going to be doing this, because when you are part of this, you agree that you won’t provide plastic bags and that you will charge a 20-cent fee for paper bags,” said Laura Sankey, who is overseeing community education and outreach for the plastic bag ban. “That 20-cent fee has to be reported to the city on an annual basis.”

Both large and small stores are required to use the revenue they receive from the fee to fund the following:

  • Educational information and signage about the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee
  • Staff training to implement the fee
  • Improving or changing store infrastructure to allow it to collect the fee
  • Collecting and accounting for the fee
  • Providing and encouraging the use of reusable bags

Businesses that opt in will be required to track how many paper bags they sell each year and submit an annual report detailing that revenue and how much money they spent on education, implementing the fee and purchasing reusable bags.

Businesses that participate will receive a “Spur Change” window decal for their businesses and receive educational material for customers from the city.

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

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