‘We’re just ahead of the game:’ Dillon businesses react to plastic bag ban
Dillon’s new ban on disposable plastic bags and foam containers went into effect on Aug. 1 as part of the town’s efforts to keep the products out of the local landfill and live up to its goal of creating a more sustainable community.
As residents and visitors make their way into shops and restaurants throughout town and leave for the first time without a plastic bag or foam container full of leftovers in tow, businesses say community members have adjusted quickly to the change, in large part because restrictions on disposable containers are no longer a novel concept.
“They don’t blink an eye at it at all,” Sun & Ski Sports Manager Lauren McMillin said. “… A lot of people we see are coming from places where they already have plastic bans. So they say, ‘Oh great, you guys are on board, too.’ So it’s been pretty seamless.”
The idea of banning plastic bags and other disposable products in Dillon first cropped up in May 2019, when a group of Dillon Valley Elementary School students approached the Dillon Town Council with a petition calling for a fee on plastic bags. The conversation continued at the town internally until council signed off on an ordinance late last year that largely banned single-use plastic bags and other disposable products from the town.
“The Dillon council has been talking about this for several years now,” Marketing and Communications Director Kerstin Anderson said. “A group of Dillon Valley Elementary students came in and lobbied council to eliminate bags in the community, and it also aligns with our 2020 environmental plan and waste reduction efforts.”
According to the ordinance, no market is allowed to provide disposable plastic bags to customers at the point of sale. In this case, disposable plastic bags are defined as any that are less than 2.25 mil thick and made predominantly of plastic derived from petroleum or bio-based sources. Bags used inside stores like produce or pharmacy bags aren’t prohibited. In general, the ordinance defines a market as a retail establishment in town operating year-round.
The ordinance also prohibits restaurants from providing expanded polystyrene foam containers, like Styrofoam products, to customers.
For some, the transition has been easy. Several Dillon businesses, such as REI and Wilderness Sports, said they moved away from single-use plastic bags some time ago. Others, like Sun & Ski, have already had experience with these sorts of restrictions at other locations.
“We’ve had a bag ban down at (our Avon store) for about a year and a half now, going on two years,” McMillin said. “So it was a super easy transition for us. We’ve got paper bags that we use in multiple different sizes. It was as easy as grabbing a box from our warehouse in Avon.”
Dillon’s biggest retailer, City Market, has also handled the change without any major headaches. Store Manager Marc Ofsowitz said the only issue worth noting in the transition is that bagging at checkout takes slightly longer with paper bags as opposed to plastic. The store has also stopped selling polystyrene foam coolers, but it didn’t use any of those products for to-go food offerings.
“We’ve handled it fine,” Ofsowitz said. “We just switched to our recycled paper bags, and we’ve been using those all along anyway. So it’s just a matter of making the customer informed of it, and that’s gone smoothly. … It’s not like this is our first rodeo; we’ve done it in other stores.”
Ofsowitz continued to say that City Market customers have taken the ban in stride.
“I don’t think I’ve had one complaint,” he said. “I haven’t been called to the front for that at all.”
City Market returned all of its plastic bags to be used at other locations where they’re allowed, Ofsowitz said.
But not every shop in town is thrilled with the change. Gary Koenig, owner of Affordable Music, said he relied on handing out plastic bags to help customers protect their vinyl records as they left the store, particularly in the rain and snow. Koenig voiced that he was disappointed the town decided to create policy around the use of plastic bags — saying he doesn’t believe there is such a thing as single-use bags — instead of people taking personal responsibility to keep the community clean.
“I kind of understand where they’re coming from, but my personal feelings are that the biggest problem isn’t the plastic bags as much as the people who use the term ‘single-use plastic bags,’” Koenig said. “These are people that let the bags blow around in the air and get caught in trees, so on and so forth. As far as plastic into our environment goes, yes, it’s a terrible thing. But … it’s such a throw-away society that they throw away millions of pounds of plastic compared to a plastic bag.”
Koenig is replacing plastic bags with more expensive cloth bags to hand out to customers, but he said the transition could end up costing the business.
“They’re not cheap, but we’ve been using those when people are buying a quantity of vinyls,” Koenig said. “I’ve gone through a couple hundred of them at least already. … Like most any other policy, it will cut into my bottom line, which isn’t really big to begin with. It will just whittle away at my income.”
But as Colorado prepares for a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging in 2024, and attempts to phase the products out of the market sooner with fees, the change for all Colorado communities will arrive in time.
“It’s something coming down from the state,” Ofsowitz said. “So we’ll all be part of it. We’re just ahead of the game.”
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