Frisco to consider 10 cent disposable bag fee at grocery stores, retail shops

Frisco is set to introduce a disposable bag ordinance to the Frisco Town Council during its next meeting later this month.
Summit Daily file photo

FRISCO — Frisco is hoping to make good on its promise to become more environmentally sustainable this year, beginning with efforts to reduce the amount of waste in town.

The town is set to introduce a disposable bag ordinance to the Frisco Town Council during its next meeting later this month. The ordinance would set a disposable bag fee of 10 cents to be implemented next year. Town staff believes the proposed fee would help to dramatically reduce the amount of disposable bags being used by visitors and town residents.

The proposal comes on the back of Frisco’s 2019-20 Strategic Plan, which was adopted in May and outlines specific goals and implantation strategies for the council over the next year and a half. Listed among the town’s sustainability goals — which include ongoing energy audits of town facilities and promoting water conservation, among other projects — was the consideration of a fee or outright ban of disposable bags.

“I think it’s indicative of why a good vision for the future matters,” Frisco town manager Nancy Kerry said. “The council came together and set a vision of the community they want to see happen. We want to make sure that’s not a plan that sits on a shelf but that we get things done. … It’s the implementation of a broad vision of a sustainable environment and a thriving recreational economy.”

If passed, the new code would act similarly to the fee passed by Breckenridge in 2013, adding a 10-cent fee consumers will pay for most paper and plastic bags at grocery stores and retail shops in town, according to a draft of the ordinance. If passed, the fee would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

In addition to the fee, the ordinance also would mandate the creation of a “disposable bag fee public outreach plan,” in order to help raise awareness and educate residents and guests about the change. The plan also would include information sessions with retail stores to explain the new requirements.

While the town isn’t expecting a significant amount of revenue from the fee, especially because the goal is to reduce the number of people using disposable bags, proceeds would go to fund further education and outreach initiatives for the program. Kerry said that for about the first year, impacted businesses might be able to keep the revenue to ease the transition and help purchase new bags for their customers to buy. The town would begin collecting revenue after that period.

“It’s such a common solution today, and it has been shown to be effective,” Kerry said. “It’s evident that when you add a fee to something, it affects someone’s decision. We know that recyclable bags are very common now. And 10 cents isn’t very much money to make a change in behavior, but it’s effective. It’s not meant to be so cost prohibitive that you can’t get a bag; it’s meant to remind you there are other ways you can carry your groceries home.”

Environmental Impact

There is some debate as to the efficacy of mandatory fees on disposable bags, in particular in weighing the amount of times a reusable bag must be used to make up the difference in terms of environmental impact. In 2011, the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency published a study assessing the life cycle environmental impacts of different types of bags from production through use and disposal.

The study concluded that in order for a low-density polyethylene bag (often called a bag for life, similar to some you may see sold in supermarkets) to reduce the global warming potential under that of a normal plastic bag, it needs to be used at least four times. While utilizing a reusable bag four times may seem simple, not all bags are equal and choosing the right material can be important. According to the study, you’d have to use a nonwoven polypropylene bag 11 times to reach the same effect and a cotton bag more than 131 times.

Kerry said more details will be coming as the proposal makes its way to council, but she also said the town is hoping to collect community input to see if there are ways to improve the idea. The ordinance is scheduled to head to council as both a workshop and agenda item during the next council meeting Aug. 13, and Kerry invited residents to stop by and share their opinions on the topic.

“This council has shown that they care about the environment,” Kerry said. “We live here in the Rocky Mountains, we promote people coming to Frisco and we’re going to demonstrate our commitment to the environment. It’s a statement that we want to implement to make sure our visiting and local populations realize it’s a priority. We care.”

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