Tuesday, October 15, 2019

CB council allows leeway on plastic bag ban ordinance

Businesses with lots of leftover bags should let town know

By Mark Reaman

Crested Butte merchants who have an overstock of plastic bags will be able to use them even after the town’s plastic bag ban goes into effect September 1. A letter will be sent this week to local business owners from the town encouraging their cooperation in the ban. The idea is to facilitate a collaborative partnership with the change, as opposed to enforcing a strictly punitive ordinance.

But several businesses appealed to the council that they have an abundance of plastic bags left for a number of reasons. Cinda Blewett of Mountain Tops t-shirts and Shades of Crested Butte said she and her neighboring business, Pfister’s Handworks, both got caught in the storm of ordering bags many months ago and then experiencing a slower than anticipated winter season. The council was also informed that many customers are more environmentally aware and don’t want a bag or bring their own when shopping. Blewett said her businesses probably have 7,000 plastic bags in stock and rather than throw them in the garbage or recycle bin, she hoped the bags could be used.

“We are amenable to switch over to paper bags and have them ordered,” she explained to the council on Monday. “But an extension would be helpful. We order bags once a year and it was a slow, tough winter, so we have about 7,000 bags left. At 30 cents a bag that is $2,000. We are asking for an extension.”

“Our goal is to go green and have the community support the effort so I think we would be willing to work with a business that still has plastic bags,” said councilman Chris Haver.

“Does the ordinance allow that?” asked councilman Will Dujardin.

“We can be reasonable human beings,” said councilwoman Laura Mitchell, and town attorney Barbara Green confirmed the council could direct the enforcement of the ordinance.

Haver asked if local businesses with extra plastic bags could reach out to the town and inform them of the situation.

Councilman Kent Cowherd suggested having a deadline on the time allowed to use the additional bags, suggesting perhaps the first of the year.

“We are okay with the idea of banning plastic bags and have ordered the other bags but we are asking you to let us get through this expense,” said Blewett. “There is only one real week of business between now and the first of the year so we couldn’t use them all. Maybe a mid-winter or end of ski season date works better. We are asking for a reasonable solution.”

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman said such action could be included in the letter being sent from the council to local businesses. “We would ask that the merchants let us know if they are in that situation,” he said. “That way when we get the phone calls from citizens informing us that a local business is not abiding by the plastic bag ban we can have a response.”

“The end of next ski season sounds reasonable,” suggested Cowherd.

“The end goal of this program is not September first,” said Haver. “It is years and years down the line with this program that makes an impact.”

The council voted 6-0 to allow local businesses with extra plastic bags to distribute them through April 1, 2019.

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