It was with brute strength that Breckenridge Councilman Gary Gallagher ripped the robin-egg-blue handle off the reusable bag prototype on Aug. 27.
The bag design was shown to the town council at the workshop, where concerns about how much weight the bag could hold were addressed once Gallagher tore the handle free. Councilmembers suggested actually testing how much weight the bag holds — a gallon of milk, for instance — would be a more accurate assessment. Testing the bag protoype is just one facet of the town’s plans for implementing a new plastic and paper bag fee in town, including upcoming public information sessions for retailers.
Beginning Oct. 15, a fee of 10 cents per bag will be charged for most disposable plastic and paper bags given to customers at all retail and grocery stores in Breckenridge. The town council adopted this fee in April to further the town’s sustainability efforts. Revenues from the fee are used to provide public information about the fee, and promote the use of reusable bags.
The first informational session for retailers is today, Sept. 18, at 5:30 p.m. at town hall. Retailers can also attend one of the other sessions on Monday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. Town staff will be available to provide more information on the bag fee, the reusable “Breck Bags” and how to report and remit collected fee revenues.
The full-color bag illustrates a different season in town on each side. The bag fee was supposed to go into place Oct. 1, but town council extended the start date after wanting more time to educate the public.
Ann Evans, Joy of Sox owner, was a member of the task force, and her downtown Breckenridge business will be supporting the reusable bag efforts.
“It’s all about generating conversations so people will stop using bags,” she said.
The town has also been meeting with lodging representatives to develop consistent messaging which will alert visitors including: pre-arrival emails, front desk check-in and concierge desks, in-stay emails and in-room directories.
“People can take the bag back to their communities,” Evans said. “It’s a beautiful bag with the town name and local artwork.”
Corporate representatives of City Market indicated there are concerns with carrying the bags in the store for an extended period, but might be willing to do so for a short time. All product sales must be approved at the corporate level.
The informational meetings for all affected retailers will provide specifics about the program, signage and graphic displays and how to report collected fees. Some retailers plan to switch to 2.25 mils — thicker plastic bags — to avoid having to charge the fee.
Evans said it will be nice to give customers the choice between plastic or a reusable bag. Studies have shown that once there is a cost associated with a plastic bag, more people make a decision not to use it, she said.
“As a retailer it’s hard to educate every person who walks through the door about recycling,” she said. “So this is a really easy way.”
In the future, the town hopes to produce a video, or series of videos, to inform customers and focus on getting them to shift to reusable bags.
Evans likened plastic bags to public smoking, emphasizing how years from now the public will hopefully find the idea just as ridiculous as allowing cigarettes on airplanes or in restaurants.
“Society is changing and hopefully this evolves into a no-brainer,” she said. “This is just a baby step.”