Council finally approves single use plastic bag ban

Watered down a bit more

By Mark Reaman

In what should be the final single-use plastic bag ban discussion for a while by the Crested Butte Town Council, the board watered down the proposed ordinance but voted Monday to ban most plastic bags in town after a two-year period.

At the August 15 meeting, the council members eliminated the need for retailers to post a sign explaining the mission behind the ordinance.

They agreed that businesses’ paper bags must be manufactured with 40 percent recycled content and must be 100 percent recyclable. But they struck a section of the ordinance requiring that the paper bags must contain no old-growth fiber.

Uncharacteristically during such public bag ban discussions, there were no public members of Sustainable Crested Butte in the audience. That group, led by Benjamin Swift, had been the impetus for the bag ban movement.

Resident Elaine Weston spoke against the idea of the ban. She said many things in the grocery stores were wrapped in plastic and Crested Butte was a “responsible community” when it came to things like plastic bags. “We don’t have issues like bags in the fences or in the streams,” she said. “We have become overly sensitive to this. We aren’t like Highway 101 where there is trash on the roadside. We all reuse our plastic bags for things like pets.”

Richard Moody said he had spent the last year in France where there are “absolutely no plastic bags. They have reusable bags that are good for a number of things. I see no reason for plastic bags at all.”

Councilwoman Erika Vohman showed off some of the “Boomerang Bags” being produced for sale to tourists who might need reusable bags. “I hope we pass this dumbed-down ordinance because it is better than nothing,” she said. “Perhaps we can revisit things like the potential fee on paper bags to discourage their use too if we want to make changes later.”

“What we are offering here I think will work,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “I don’t think you need the fee to be effective.”

Councilman Chris Ladoulis spoke against some of the requirements in the ordinance, including the requirement for a sign in stores explaining the ban and the requirement that no approved paper bag have any old-growth fiber.

“I don’t want to get into the complexities of the types of paper bags that are allowed or the locations of signs in stores,” Ladoulis said. “I could support the plastic bag ban without the complexities and subjecting our retailers to fines for inadvertently not following the ordinance.”

Vohman said old-growth forests being logged for paper bags were a real environmental issue. “We should walk the talk of the town’s stated values,” she implored.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell said that while supporting the ban, she would prefer that signs in stores be optional.

“Then you might as well strike it,” said town attorney John Belkin.

The rest of the council agreed, even though Schmidt said that was a part of the ordinance he thought logical.

The council voted to approve the ordinance 4-1 with Vohman voting against it and council members Paul Merck and Roland Mason not at the meeting.

Michel said the plastic bag ordinance process was a good lesson for the council. “We need clearly defined goals when doing something like this,” he said. “What can the council do to identify real, meaningful change? I think we lag on things like curbside recycling and can make a true impact on something like improving that.”

The ban goes into full effect September 1, 2018. Even then certain plastic bags will be allowed for defined uses.

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