Breckenridge fine-tunes plastic bag ban, discusses materials for reusable bags
Breckenridge Town Council decided Tuesday, Jan. 26, that compostable bags would not be exempt from the plastic bag ban that goes into effect in September and debated what type of reusable bag the town should distribute.
Sustainability Coordinator Jessie Burley said a restaurant owner asked the town if compostable bags would be allowed once the ban takes effect. Burley said town staff does not recommend that council allow compostable bags to be exempt from the ban because of a lack of collection and compost abilities in Summit County.
“The reality is, in Summit County, we don’t have a very good outlet to both collect and then compost these items, so they do end up in the landfill, and the landfill is an anaerobic environment, which means that even though its made to compost, it ends up like every other material in the landfill, which is it does not break down very well and ultimately creates methane,” Burley said.
Council members agreed with Burley’s recommendation. Mayor Eric Mamula pointed out that there are a lot of compostable products that can’t be accepted at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park.
Mamula asked whether council has the opportunity to postpone the Sept. 1 start date if effects of COVID-19 continue, as there’s a cost associated with businesses complying. Town attorney Tim Berry said a delay would be possible. Mamula said the start date could be reevaluated this summer.
The disposable bag ordinance was also updated to classify a violation of the ordinance as a misdemeanor offense. A violation includes a retail store selling, providing or distributing a plastic bag or a paper bag that does not contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content.
Also at the meeting, Burley asked council what type of material they would prefer for a third edition of a Breckenridge reusable bag, which is currently being designed. She explained that the town orders about 50,000 reusable bags each year that lodging establishments can distribute to guests for free, if information about the reusable bag program is provided, and that retailers can buy at a lower cost and resell to customers.
The Breckenridge reusable bags in circulation today are made with 80% recycled plastic and 20% virgin plastic, Burley said. She explained that the bags are made in Southeast Asia, so they incur an environmental cost from travel, but that they are light and easy to store. Burley said another option would be bags made of organic cotton that are sourced in the U.S., but those are more expensive and extra costly when designs with color are added.
The last option Burley offered was bags made of a combination of paper and latex, called “supernatural” bags, that have begun being sold at Trader Joe’s. Burley noted that the supernatural bags are smaller in size and more expensive.
“I think the bottom line here is that there’s no perfect bag, and it depends on what your ultimate goal is,” Burley said. “The goal of the disposable bag fee ordinance was to reduce waste, reduce litter, and so if you carry that out, then it’s staff’s opinion that the 80% recycled content material meets those requirements.”
“Using the recycled plastic creates a market for recycled plastic, and in my mind, that should be one of our top priorities,” council member Kelly Owens said.
All council members agreed the town should order 50,000 of the partially recycled plastic reusable bags. Mamula and council member Jeffrey Bergeron wanted to make a small order of the paper and latex bags to test out but were outvoted by the other council members who opted to keep costs down.
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