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By summer, grocery shopping may be BYOB – bring your own bag – or bags will cost you at the register.
The Boulder City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday, mandating that grocery and convenience stores charge a 20-cent fee on all checkout bags. The ordinance was introduced in May, in an effort to cut down on pollution.
While some members wanted an outright ban, the council moved forward with a fee ordinance only. An independent consulting company recommended the fee to cover the cost of each bag.
“A 20-cent fee is significant, and will surely encourage shoppers to switch to reusable bags,” Dustin Michels, a member of the Fairview High Net Zero Club said in a statement to the city council.
The city council praised the high school environmental club for their dedication to the disposable bag ordinance Tuesday night. However, Michels and other members are disappointed that a complete ban is not included in the ordinance. Michels asked that as the issue moves forward the council include a concrete date at which a ban would be reconsidered.
Last spring, the city held public meetings and hosted an online survey regarding the distribution of disposable bags. 60 percent of participants supported reducing checkout bag usage in Boulder, however there was disagreement between a fee on both plastic and paper, banning plastic with a fee on paper or a total ban on all disposable bags.
To move forward, the city hired TischlerBise, a Bethesda, Md.-based consulting firm. In their study sent to the city in September, TischlerBise recommended the 20-cent fee to cover the expense to retailers, the city and the waste management companies who deal with the disposable bags. The estimated cost to retailers is 4 cents per bag and the cost to the city and waste management an additional 16 cents.
City Attorney Tom Carr explained that the study arrived at the fee amount based on the actual costs, not working from a 20-cent fee down.The study also considered other cities’ experiences with similar ordinances.
“It should apply to all stores, not just 45,” Michels stressed to the council regarding their decision to implement the fee on a limited number of stores in Boulder. It is estimated that the 45 food stores distribute 60 percent of all disposable bags in Boulder.
Using 2010 census figures and the Boulder County’s Waste Composition study, it is estimated that each Boulder County resident uses 342 disposable bags each year, producing a total of 781 tons of waste.
Boulder is not the only city in Colorado that would charge for paper or plastic at check out. Aspen, Telluride and Carbondale have all passed similar ordinances.
“I’m all for it,” Christi Turner, a 30-year-old graduate student, said after the council meeting. “I’ve been using the same reusable bags for years.”
A second reading of the ordinance and public hearing is slated for Oct. 16. If approved, the fee would take effect July 1, 2013 allowing businesses and residents time to prepare.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Kate Gibbons at Katherine.gibbons-1@Colorado.edu.