BRECKENRIDGE - The Breckenridge Town Council passed on a proposal that would ban plastic bags at large grocery stores and encourage other retailers to cut back on single-use bags, calling the plan unfair.
It was the first time town leaders have reacted to a concrete plan for bag reduction in Breckenridge since the new council put the issue at the top of its priority list last year.
But officials said they weren't willing to adopt a proposal that treated single-use bags differently depending on who gave them out.
"This grocery versus retail thing, I'm adamantly opposed to that," Councilman Mike Dudick said. "If plastic bags are bad, they're bad. We, as a community, can't be kind of pregnant on this."
Without voting on it, the council returned the proposal to the SustainableBreck Business Task Force - the panel of individuals from local the restaurant, retail and lodging industries who drafted the plan - asking for revisions last week.
City Market has declined to comment on the bag-reduction discussions to the Summit Daily, but town staffers said the company indicated it would not oppose or support a bag ban initiative during discussions with the town.
Town leaders also indicated they wanted a plan that would target both plastic and paper bags. Paper bags require more energy than plastic to manufacture, according to town staffers.
Three bag reduction strategies are currently on the table: a full ban of plastic and possibly paper bags, a fee on each bag - the revenue from which might be directed toward a bag-reduction marketing and education campaign - and a voluntary program encouraging local businesses, residents and visitors to move away from the use of plastic bags.
The task force proposal recommended banning plastic bags at large grocers in Breckenridge within six months, imposing a fee on paper bags and encouraging smaller retailers in town to decrease bag use, with benchmarks over the next few years.
The proposal received generally favorable feedback from the community.
More than 80 percent of people surveyed at a public forum and 66 percent questioned online supported the idea of banning plastic bags at large grocery stores. Approximately 80 percent of respondents at the forum and online backed the idea of asking retailers to voluntarily scale back on single-use bags.
"I feel strongly that we should ban bags at all stores," one unidentified online respondent stated. "Besides the use of petroleum in making them and long life in the landfill, they are unsightly trash hanging from our trees and bushes around town."
Opponents of the bag reduction plan generally cite the possible implications on Breckenridge's tourist economy, fueled by visitors who may not be aware of, prepared for or patient with a bag ban when they arrive in town.
"Breckenridge bends over backwards to please tourists," another unnamed community member stated in an online comment. "Tourists don't come prepared for anything, let alone bring returnable bags on a trip."
Some have suggested using money generated by a single-use bag fee to supply local lodging companies and shuttle services with reusable bags branded with Breckenridge or local business logos to be provided to visitors.
Both Aspen and Telluride have implemented somewhat-successful bag bans in recent years. Fees on bags have been effective in reducing use in other jurisdictions, according to town staffers.
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, a memo from town staff stated.