BRECKENRIDGE - A plan to ban single-use plastic bags in large grocery stores and impose a fee on paper bags in an effort to reduce waste, will be put to the test with the public in Breckenridge, officials decided Tuesday afternoon.
Town council members agreed to let members of the community provide feedback and ideas on the proposed strategy through a public engagement process before adopting a law banning or imposing fees on single-use bags.
"People have decided to ban bags because that's a really good first step away from this single-use consumerism that we have, this throw-away mentality," Breckenridge Councilwoman Jen McAtamney said. "We make our best decisions when we have a lot of people involved and, frankly, when we have tension over it."
The proposal calls for a ban on plastic bags at large grocery stores and a fee on the use of paper bags. It would divide up the money from the fees to help cover the grocers' administrative costs and to fund a marketing and education campaign for the bag-reduction program. It would also impose decreasing bag-use targets for smaller retailer stores and restaurants in Breckenridge. A bag bank and program providing tourists with branded reusable bags might be part of the proposal as well.
The plan will be presented to the public in person and online through the use of engagement software, social media and open houses, likely in October and November.
"And we'll see what the people want to do," Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dystra-DiLallo said.
The council aims to have a final plan drafted by the end of the year and ready to be voted into ordinance early next year.
Community members who attended the discussion Tuesday asked that Breck visitors' input on the issue be weighed in the final decision as well.
"We want to have the community behind whatever the decision is. A big part of our community is the tourists," said Jen Cawley, of the Hearthstone and Mi Casa restaurants at the Tuesday meeting. "They're the ones probably not bringing (reusable) bags."
Breckenridge goes through an estimated $3 million bags each year, a majority of which are thought to come from local grocers and liquor stores, although the largest grocery store, City Market, did not make specific data available.
Many of the single-use plastic bags, which will never decompose, are discarded around town and accumulate in the Blue River.
The bag-elimination discussions originated with the SustainableBreck Plan, a blueprint help preserve Breckenridge over the next 20 years, that was adopted in 2011 after a lengthy public-engagement process.
Other Colorado communities including Aspen and Telluride have recently imposed some what-successful bag bans, while other jurisdictions have seen 80-90 percent reductions in bag use by imposing fees.
Approximately 14 million trees are cut and 12 million barrels of oil used annually to produce paper and plastic bags. Billions of bags end up as litter every year and are ingested by wildlife, introducing toxic chemicals into the food chain, according to the memo.