ROBERT ALLEN
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

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December 10, 2008
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Breckenridge joins eco-friendly bag contest

It may be the beginning of the end for disposable plastic bags that litter the lands, fill the landfills and perturb the environmentally conscious.

Breckenridge has joined as many as 24 other ski towns in a friendly contest to reduce disposable-bag use, and other Summit County towns may follow suit.

"(We'll) see which town can eliminate the most single-use bags in a year,"

Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said. "It's the right thing to be doing."

The voluntary challenge among the Colorado Association of Ski Towns could prevent the use of nearly 7 million single-use plastic bags, according to the 2009 BYOB Challenge action plan.

The year-long challenge, to begin Jan. 1, will be similar to a contest that occurred last summer among Telluride, Mountain Village and Aspen. The communities worked with five grocery stores to track reusable bag use through key codes at the registers.

Some 140,359 plastic bags were spared during the 99-day contest period, according to the action plan.

In addition, last summer's contest included donations of 5 cents per reusable bag from each grocery store toward an environmental education fund. About $2,800 was raised.

In Breckenridge, City Market already tracks reusable bag use and offers 5-cent refunds to customers who use them, according to the town.

Town officials are approaching both City Market and Food Kingdom " the town's two grocery stores " to ask whether they would contribute 5 cents per bag toward a community fund for providing bag handouts and educational programs, according to town documents.

Warner said he signed up the town for the BYOB Challenge at a recent CAST meeting.

"Then I told council I'd signed up, and they all thought it was great," he said.

Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said he'd like to see local merchants " beyond the grocery stores " get involved.

"It's such a good cause," he said.

Local lodging businesses may play a part in this as well, for Warner said some expressed interest last spring in offering reusable bags in the rooms. The bags could be inscribed with the business logos and information.

"So if somebody walks away with one, and they're walking around in Austin, Texas" it could work out as free advertising, he said.

The Town of Frisco may also participate, as officials are approaching both Safeway and Wal-Mart to see if the two chain stores are on board.

"We definitely want the involvement of the bigger businesses that use more plastic bags," Frisco senior planner Jocelyn Mills said. "It's a voluntary program, but we would love to get a lot of community support around the concept."

In Silverthorne, the town council has discussed asking Target to participate. There are no supermarkets in town, and no decisions have been made regarding how the town would pursue the challenge.

Dillon town manager Devin Granbery said he'll review the contest with his town council next month.

"I don't know yet to what extent, if any, that Dillon will participate," he said.

Local state House candidate Ali Hasan this fall substituted reusable bags for campaign signs, leaving them on residents' doors. The bags were a hit, appearing all over the county " including the grocery stores.

Breckenridge town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said the bag challenge will provide an affordable task for the town's green team " which suffered operational budget cuts because of the uncertain 2009 economic outlook.

"There are a lot of things we can be working on that don't cost money. This is one of them," she said.

By the calculations of Telluride, Mountain Village and Aspen's bag challenge results, about 284 bags were saved per store per day. With an estimated 65 stores serving the CAST areas, a total of 6.7 million bags could be saved in 2009, according to the challenge's action plan.

But every little bit helps. For every person who chooses for one year to use a reusable rather than disposable bag, there are between 350 and 500 less of the latter discarded.

Daily News reporters Ashley Dickson and Caitlin Row contributed to this report.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 10, 2008 09:36PM Published Dec 10, 2008 07:12PM Copyright 2008 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.