Silverthorne isn’t on board with a plastic bag ban, but plans to increase recycling education |

Silverthorne isn’t on board with a plastic bag ban, but plans to increase recycling education

Plastic bag in hand, a customer leaves a store in Frisco, Colo. on Aug. 14, 2019.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

Silverthorne town council revisited the issue of instituting plastic bag fees or a ban, but ultimately decided on discussing the issue with the High Country Conservation Center to determine what might be most effective. In the meantime, council members agreed that the town should focus efforts on education around recycling.

Back in October, council members adamantly shot down the idea of a plastic bag fee or ban, but at Wednesday’s town council work session, council member Tanya Shattuck asked that the council revisit the issue, referencing the three other Summit County towns that have passed plastic bag bans and other disposable bag fees.

Council member Kelly Baldwin, who is on the town sustainability committee, said that the conservation center would like for Silverthorne to join in with the other towns and stated that she is for a plastic bag ban.

She noted that steps in this direction are going to happen anyway, as Kroger, which owns City Market, plans to discontinue use of plastic bags by 2025. However, Baldwin said she does feel that it’s a bad time to ban or add a fee to plastic bags as grocery stores have asked customers to bag their own groceries if using reusable bags, which might be an issue for some of the elderly population.

Council member Michael Spry said he was in favor of eliminating single-use plastic, but didn’t feel a ban or fee was the right way to go about it.

“I am absolutely for a better management system and a better waste system that reduces and controls and ultimately eliminates single-use plastic … but going through the bag ban process or the bag tax process through municipalities I just think is using the wrong tool for the problem,” Spry said. “I am not for municipalities going in and controlling how businesses can operate or taxing their guests and residents for items that businesses believe they need to effectively do business.”

Still, Spry said the town should encourage reusable products. Council member Derrick Fowler said he agreed with Spry.

Council member Amy Manka pointed out that Lowe’s and Target offer plastic bag recycling containers for people to bring in their used bags. She said that it would not be ideal to ban plastic bags during the pandemic as restaurants have relied on to-go orders that often use plastic bags. Council member Kevin McDonald said he believes there’s a mentality among tourists that it’s not critical for them to reuse or recycle while they’re here, and feels a bag fee doesn’t have much effect on usage.

Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist also expressed a desire for alternative options.

“I would rather … instead of a tax or fee, so to speak, on plastic bags, that we have a way to incentivize retailers to try to have people bring in plastic bags and reuse them. … I don’t know exactly how to set that up but more of a positive way to change should be like, ‘hey, are there places within Silverthorne where we can recycle plastic bags and redistribute them to other retailers?’” Sandquist said. “I know that sounds like a pain in the neck for staff and probably isn’t the right solution, but I’m thinking maybe (the conservation center) can help with something along those lines.”

Baldwin noted that disposable plastic bags are flimsy and difficult to reuse and Summit County doesn’t have a way to readily recycle plastic bags at this time. Spry said he’d like to talk to sustainability experts about the best thing to do. McDonald defended Silverthorne’s sustainability efforts, pointing to the town’s commitment to sourcing 100% of its electric usage from Xcel Energy’s Windsource program.

“I think that’s a much bigger dent to the carbon footprint than anything a plastic bag ban is going to do. So I challenge other municipalities that are charging a fee or banning altogether to join us because we’re trying to take big steps forward. … We’re not blowing off the entire space, but we’re scratching our head about this particular small part of the space that keeps coming up,” McDonald said.

Shattuck said she would reach out to High Country Conservation Center to discuss the best way the town could address the issue.

“I really would like to educate our tourists that do come in, I just think that’s the angle that is most important,” Shattuck said.

Manka and Spry expressed concerns about recycling contamination in town, and pushed for better signage about what material goes in which collection bin, along with general education in the community. Town manager Ryan Hyland said the town will ramp up recycling messages to the community, including reminding people that disposable plastic bags aren’t recyclable at the town’s recycling center but can be recycled at Target and Lowe’s. He also suggested providing the lodging community with town-branded reusable bags to give to visitors.

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