Questions stall final approval of Avon bag ban, but council still eyes May 2018 rollout
AVON — Avon’s impending ban of single-use plastic bags in town appears not to be a question of if, or when, but how.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26, Avon Town Council members expressed support for a ban on single-use plastic bags in town starting May 1, but stalled on passing the ban because of questions about how the ban should be applied and how the funds garnered from mandatory fees on paper bags should be distributed.
After passing council by a 6-1 margin on first reading Sept. 12, council members second-guessed certain aspects of the ordinance Tuesday, including the provision that would allow retailers to keep 100 percent of the funds garnered from the mandatory fee on paper bags that would replace the currently policy of free plastic bags for all customers.
“My thinking has evolved over the past two weeks about how we handle the 10 cent fee,” said Avon Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Smith Hymes. “Contrary to what I said at the last meeting, I think that it is a better approach for retailers to remit a portion of that fee to the town to go into a waste mitigation and education campaign fund, that would also used to produce multi-use bags that can be given away or sold.”
The council agreed that without a fee on paper bags, a reduction in the total use of bags would not occur. Council members also seemed agreeable to a split in revenues from the bag fees, where 50 percent of the paper bag fees would stay with the retailer, and 50 percent would go to the town.
“It can always be amended,” Mayor Jennie Fancher said.
The suggestion to continue the meeting to Oct. 10 was made after Fancher asked if language could be included in the ordinance to have the ban apply only to large retailers in town such as Walmart and City Market.
“Let’s keep our May target for implementation and rollout, but if it makes more sense to continue it to the next hearing, I’m fine making that motion,” council member Matt Gennett said.
‘A LITTLE NICER’
The City Market grocery store in Avon distributes more than 1 million bags per year to its customers. On Tuesday, manager Jeff Gentilini said Avon’s proposal to ban single-use plastic bags has a lot of those customers asking him a lot of questions.
“A lot of my customers are on both sides of the spectrum, and I’m in the middle,” Gentilini said.
The policy suggested by the council at Tuesday’s meeting — that Avon’s ban would allow City Market to keep half of the fees from bags throughout the life of the ordinance — would be welcomed by Gentilini.
“Most towns only share the first year, and then (the towns) take all,” Gentilini said, using Vail as an example. “So Avon’s proposal is a little nicer.”
Gentilini said hopes Avon’s ban differs from Vail’s in one major way — he wants it to apply to all businesses in town, not just the large grocery stores.
“I know that when it only becomes us, it looks like it’s our own ban, and that’s what I’m looking to stay away from,” Gentilini said. “In Vail, they promised in the next year, the next phase, to apply (the plastic bag ban) to the rest of the businesses in town, and it still hasn’t happened.”
Gentilini said he has heard multiple stories of Vail City Market customers going to nearby Ace Hardware for single-use bags.
“They’re bring them in from next door,” Gentilini said. “What I’m trying to get across in Avon is, we have to be in unison.”
As far as the ban itself, Gentilini said City Market didn’t have an opinion either way.
“I’m just looking for a smooth transition,” he said.
The Austin family has always believed in supporting their community through food education, which is why it was an easy decision for them to begin partnering with The Community Market, a local hunger relief project, to improve access to local produce for low-income individuals in Eagle County.