Vail likely to ban plastic shopping bags
What to look for
What: Town staff is working on ways to cut the use of single-use shopping bags.
When: The council will get its first look at a draft ordinance in February or March.
Would it happen all at once? Probably not.
Would it apply to all businesses: Probably, in time.
What would the fee be? Expect a 10- or 20-cent fee for bags.
VAIL — Town officials here have been talking for more than five years about environmental initiatives. After passing recycling rules in 2014, the town this year seems ready to tackle shopping bags.
Reducing the amount of waste shipped to the Eagle County Landfill was one of the primary goals of a 2009 environmental strategy plan. Single-use shopping bags are a big part of that waste.
According to Kristen Bertuglia, the town’s sustainability manager, plastic shopping bags are recyclable, but it’s more expensive to recycle a bag than to produce one. Those bags often hold other recyclable items and tend to clog up systems at recycling centers.
During Tuesday’s presentation to the Vail Town Council, Bertuglia brought along Mark Truckey, the sustainability coordinator for the town of Breckenridge, to talk about that town’s experience with its bag ban — which is, more accurately, a ban on plastic with 10 cents per paper bag fee for shoppers who don’t bring their own bags. Truckey brought along a handful of reusable bags the town had produced to help encourage shoppers to bring their own bags.
The town has so far produced about 100,000 of the bags, at about $1 each. About half of the cost was funded by the town, with the rest coming from proceeds from the bag fee. The bags are given to lodges and sold at retail stores and the town’s welcome center at cost.
“It’s been a great marketing tool for the town,” Truckey said.
Council member Margaret Rogers liked the idea, calling it a “99-cent souvenir.”
Truckey also talked about the success of the fee, which now generates about $65,000 per year. Much of that fee money goes into producing Breckenridge-branded reusable bags, some goes to education, and some to the stores.
While Breckenridge charges 10 cents per bag, Aspen charges 20 cents. Bertuglia said that fee increase seems to be a strong incentive for shoppers. She cited a California study that shows a 63 percent single-use bag reduction with a 10-cent fee, and an 83 percent reduction when the fee is 20 cents.
Residents on hand for the meeting largely supported the idea of imposing a fee for shopping bags.
‘LOSS OF FREEDOM’
Michael Cacioppo said he opposes the fee as a “loss of freedom” for shoppers and a loss of jobs for the bag industry.
Bill Suarez, president of the Red House condominiums homeowners association, said he believes the town can act without impinging on anyone’s freedom.
“I think it’s high time we started worrying about the environment,” Suarez said.
Bart Longworth told the council that a bag fee “might not be the biggest piece of the sustainability puzzle, but it helps us leave a lasting impact.”
Other residents echoed those feelings.
That left council members to wrestle with just what a Vail bag fee might look like. There was almost complete agreement on the board about the need for action — although council member Greg Moffet questioned whether the move might be more about public relations than environmental impacts. But details of a fee were tricky to figure out.
Council member Dale Bugby said he’d support a ban, but not a fee. Fellow council member Dave Chapin said he’d favor a fee, but he wanted to phase in the fee, with the ban ultimately applied to grocery stores first, and then all retail businesses.
What the council ended up with is a proposal that could take effect as soon as July 1 of this year. The proposed ordinance would ban plastic bags and impose a 10-cent fee for every single-use paper bag. That ban would apply first to the town’s two supermarkets — both of which have experience with plastic-bag bans in other markets. The ban and fee would apply to all retail businesses in the second year.
The council will get its first look at a draft ordinance in February or March.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.