Saying Walmart has found a loophole, Avon looks to tighten regs on plastic bags

The Avon Walmart would like to offer customers free plastic bags which they say can be reused up to 125 times. The bags use 2.25 mil thick plastic and would be thrown away rather than reused, say councilmembers in Avon.
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While Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes said it was “cool” of Walmart to approach the town with a new idea to help customers carry their groceries, she also thinks bringing plastic bags back to the town would be very uncool.

The Avon Town Manager’s office was approached with an idea from the Avon Walmart to offer customers reusable plastic bags with their purchases. The bags are made of 2.25 mil thick plastic, and can be reused up to 125 times, can carry 18 pounds and can be cleaned and disinfected regularly, according to a product test provided by Walmart.

Town of Avon staff brought the issue to the council because “there may be concerns that the proposed reusable bags are similar enough to the previous disposable bags that they are likely to not be reused,” according to a memo from Emily Myler with the town of Avon.

Bag of idioms

The council agreed with Myler’s assessment. Councilmember Russell Andrade visited town hall to see the bag provided by Walmart.

“My first impression was it definitely felt like a disposable, one-use bag,” he said.

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But that doesn’t mean he’s against the bags, Andrade added.

“I honestly don’t have a problem with these bags if they’re not the only option,” he said. “I’d take them if they’re in the rack alongside the paper bag, and let the people choose.”

The rest of the council didn’t take as kindly to the new bags.

Councilmember Chico Thuon described the thicker plastic option as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” a statement echoed by Hymes and Councilmember Amy Phillips.

“I think of it as a camel’s nose under the tent, though wolf in sheep’s clothing works too,” Phillips said.

Councilmember Scott Prince said Walmart’s effort could lead to other grocery stores also using the thicker plastic bags.

“The marketplace has found a loophole in our guidelines,” Prince said.

Councilmember Lindsay Hardy also felt a bag herself, and said it felt disposable.

“People will assume it’s disposable, and we have too many transient people in town that the feeling and looking disposable is going to cause people to dispose of it without recycling,” Hardy said.

Town attorney: Our point still stands

Ineke de Jong, the executive assistant to the Avon Town Manager, said Walmart was awaiting Tuesday’s discussion to see if the company should begin using the new bags at in their Avon location.

No one from Walmart attended the meeting to answer questions, however.

“Do you remember any discussion about what their rationale is for trying to reintroduce what many people will perceive to be single use plastic bags?” Hymes asked de Jong.

“The town of Frisco has a very similar ordinance as the town of Avon, and their Walmart introduced these bags, and alerted our Walmart of this option,” de Jong said. “They wanted to relay it to the town before they decided one way or the other.”

Councilmember Tamra Underwood thanked Walmart for coming to the town, but said as a result of the discussion, Avon needs to “change our ordinance to get rid of that loophole.”

Hymes agreed.

“While I’m disappointed that they are trying to introduce this bag, I do think it’s very cool that they actually have come to us first before they just introduced it, because … they have the right to do it as the code it written right now,” Hymes said.

Town attorney Paul Wisor said it was indeed a loophole (he used the word workaround), and the town staff will come back before council with amended language to prevent the new bags.

“Walmart has clearly identified that communities in Colorado have adopted these ordinances,” Wisor said. “They’ve found a workaround that they think works for them, and there’s nothing that prevents us from saying look, our point still stands, we don’t want this being thrown away, which clearly it will be. So we can change our standards.”

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