Breckenridge passes plastic bag ban on first reading |

Breckenridge passes plastic bag ban on first reading

Plastic bag in hand, a customer leaves a store in Frisco, Colo. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019.
Beginning Sept. 1, 2021, plastic bags will be banned in the town of Breckenridge and only paper bags with at least 40% recycled content can be distributed for a 10-cent fee.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

BRECKENRIDGE — A plastic bag ban is coming to Breckenridge.

Breckenridge Town Council members unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading Tuesday, Oct. 27, that bans plastic bags beginning Sept. 1, 2021. The topic has been discussed in other Summit County municipalities, but Breckenridge is the first town to begin the legislative process of banning plastic bags. 

Until Sept. 1, the current disposable bag ordinance, which charges 10 cents for paper and plastic bags, stands. After Sept. 1, only paper bags made from a minimum of 40% recycled content can be distributed for a 10-cent fee. The ordinance establishes distributing plastic bags, or paper bags that don’t meet the 40% recycled content criteria, as unlawful.

Mayor Eric Mamula noted that waiting until fall of next year to ban plastic bags will give businesses time to get rid of the plastic bags they currently have in stock.

Exceptions to the rules include produce and meat bags, bulk item packaging, prescription drug bags and small bags for loose retail items such as jewelry, spices and marijuana. However, the exemption for plastic bags that are 2.25 millimeters thick no longer applies. 

Farmers markets, which originally were exempt from the disposable bag fee, are included in the new disposable bag ordinance. Jessie Burley, Breckenridge Sustainability Coordinator, said in her memo to council that farmers markets have been included in the ordinance “in order to discourage the use of disposable bags across all retail venues” and noted that farmers market vendors require the same business license registration and sales tax remittance as retail stores. 

At restaurants, bags used for takeout orders cannot be plastic after Sept. 1. Bags must be paper, made from 40% recycled content, or reusable; however, restaurants are not subject to the 10-cent fee.

Council member Erin Gigliello asked whether restaurants could keep track of the number of bags used even if there are no bag fees. 

“Actually, that would be quite nice to know, because I feel like that’s a piece of the puzzle, which I understand we don’t have a solution for right now, but if there is any way to track how many bags are used for carryout, that would be great,” Gigliello said.

“The solution is to ban them,” Mamula responded.

Council member Dick Carleton, who owns Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and Cantina and Hearthstone Restaurant, said he doesn’t want to legislate counting bags in restaurants but that he can run purchasing reports as an owner.

Council member Jeffrey Bergeron said he doesn’t want to make it harder for restaurants to provide takeout options amid the pandemic, and council members agreed.

In a previous council work session, town attorney Tim Berry pointed out that a state statute precludes a ban on plastic bags. In the Oct. 27 council meeting, Berry noted that the Colorado Municipal League has proposed a statutory amendment that would change this law, though it has not yet been voted on.

Despite the state statute, several other Colorado towns have moved forward with plastic bag bans, including Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Telluride.

Council members are expected to formally approve the ban at their next meeting Nov. 10.

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