Year in review: Plastic bag ban reduced use by 85% and saved stores money
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Slightly more than a year after Steamboat Springs City Council instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags and a 20-cent charge on paper bags, city staff said the measure has been a success and achieved the city’s goals of education and sustainability.
The measure officially took effect Oct. 1, 2019, and in the 13 months since, the city has seen an 85% reduction in disposable bags used, a $12,827 savings to stores and has been able to pay its general fund loan to support the initiative back in full.
To put the percentage in perspective, Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s special projects and intergovernmental services manager, told council, in most years, stores give out about 3,802,400 bags, but in the year since the ban, they have given out only 579,455. And all of those were paper bags at a 20-cent charge.
DelliQuadri also said the city’s three main goals of decreasing single-use plastic bags, partnering with impacted stores and spending revenue on waste reduction and recycling have all been met.
Council members said the feedback they have heard from residents has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I am elated by how this has worked out,” said council member Lisel Petis. “I knew that we would drastically cut down the single-use bags, and to me, this really backs up why we did it. I think we should pat ourselves on the back by how well this has gone the first year.”
The ban took several years for the council to pass and implement, but members said the progress was worth the initial difficulties.
“It took me awhile to get used to going back to my car and grabbing bags, but I think it’s great now, and we should go for another year,” said council member Michael Buccino.
In addition to the environmental goals the ban achieved, the city was also able to launch several education campaigns, including informational posters on city transit buses.
While most of the city’s goals were achieved, the reporting that stores were required to send the city on how they spent the 5 cents per paper bag they were able to keep has been spotty.
According to the initial ordinance, stores were required to use the extra revenue to help cover the costs of implementing the fee, educating customers, training staff and providing reusable bags, but DelliQuadri said Safeway spent all of their revenue on administration, City Market has never kept their portion and Walgreens and Walmart did not provide reports.
The reporting goes through the stores’ corporate headquarters, which DelliQuadri said has been a headache for local store managers.
“We’ve had really inconsistent reporting in terms of how those dollars have been used,” she told council.
Because of this, the council voted 4 to 1 against a proposal to award the stores $100 each month of bag revenue collected.
Council member Kathi Meyer provided the one dissenting vote, with member Sonja Macys absent.
Meyer said she voted against the suggestion because she believed a small incentive for the participating businesses was important to fulfilling the city’s goal of partnering with them.
City staff recommended the proposal, but the council felt such a small amount would make little difference to large corporations and did not make the reporting processes worth it.
The fee collected from paper bags only applies to the four corporate stores required to follow the ordinance and would not apply to small businesses who voluntarily opt in.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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