Looking to reduce plastic waste, Frisco Town Council considers possible ordinances related to cutlery and water bottles | SummitDaily.com

Looking to reduce plastic waste, Frisco Town Council considers possible ordinances related to cutlery and water bottles

The proposed ordinances include requiring restaurants to only provide single-use utensils on request and banning the sale of water sold in single-use plastic bottles.

The Frisco Town Council is considering possible ordinances aimed at reducing plastic waste and pollution.
Mark Fox/Summit Daily News archive

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add the last name and title of council member Elizabeth Skrzypczak-Adrian.

From cutlery to water bottles, the Frisco Town Council is considering potential town ordinances with the goal of limiting waste and pollution from single-use plastics.

At a work session on Tuesday, March 14, council members discussed potential ordinances that could require take-out restaurants to only provide cutlery upon request and ban the sale of water sold in single-use plastic bottles.

Opinions differed on the two potential ordinances, but council members expressed some level of willingness to explore both topics — with several suggesting a hand-in-hand marketing campaign to help educate the public.

“There are lots of problems with single-use plastics,” Hilary Sueoka, Frisco’s environmental programs coordinator, said.

Those include local issues, like recyclable plastics ending up in the trash and landfill, non-recyclable plastics contaminating recycling and plastic littering the environment, Sueoka said. But they also include less visible societal issues, she said, noting that plastics are produced from oil and have negative impacts on the climate and on the communities near where they are manufactured.

Several council members agreed that requiring businesses to only provide plastic cutlery upon request — known as “skip the stuff” — could help reduce plastic waste and may even save businesses money.

“When I get Chinese food takeout, I don’t need the chopsticks, I don’t need the soy sauce packets, I don’t need all those things,” Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. 

Council member Elizabeth Skrzypczak-Adrian expressed concern about ordinances that would require businesses to substitute alternative materials for plastic, but several other council members noted that is not what is being proposed.

Andrew Aerenson worried that the town might be over-regulating and questioned whether the council could just ask businesses to stop giving out single-use plastic items unless requested.

Mortensen noted that while local residents are usually pretty good about recycling and reducing waste, visitors contribute a significant amount of waste to the community.

“We have a million tourists come through Frisco every year who aren’t doing their part and their impact to our community and our environment is astronomical compared to the people who live here, and that’s why we need these regulations,” Mortensen said.

In the end, all the council members voiced some level of support for a “skip the stuff” ordinance, even if they did not all seem entirely convinced.

“It basically means nothing in the overall deal,” Council member Andy Held said, noting the proposed ordinance would only reduce waste from utensils, which he said are some of the smallest pieces of trash.

The council also discussed a potential ordinance that would ban the sale of water packaged in plastic bottles less than a half-gallon. The potential ordinance would not ban the sale of other beverages sold in plastic bottles.

“They can supply water in any number of aluminum cans at any number of volumes,” Mortensen said. “So we’re not taking away something that exists already, we’re just taking away one product that is detrimental to the community.”

Aerenson said he recently conducted an anecdotal study where he talked to people with several cases of bottled water in their shopping carts. Every person he talked to was not from Summit County and only drinks bottled water, he said.

“We have to address that as a very big part of this conversation,” Aerenson said. “Because we’re fighting culture. We’re not fighting for environmentalism, we’re fighting against culture.”

He suggested that any ordinance related to banning water sold in single-use plastic containers go hand-in-hand with a marketing campaign to educate the public, an idea several other council members seemed to like.

Council member Jessica Burley noted that several retailers have said that their number one selling item — or at least a top-selling item — is water sold in single-use plastic bottles. Still, Burley said, “why are we protecting the culture of our visitors and not the culture of our community?”

“We cater to our visitors on everything,” she said. “I don’t understand why we need to accommodate all these other behavior types if that’s not how we want people to act here.”

Lisa Holenko noted that after tourists come to Frisco once and encounter an ordinance banning water sold in single-use plastics, they can stop anywhere between Denver and Summit County to buy the product they want.

Sueoka added that an ordinance would not make it illegal to have water in single-use plastic bottles in town, the regulation would simply eliminate the ability for local retailers to sell such products.

Both proposed ordinances — as well as a potential marketing campaign — appeared to have enough support to come back before the council at a future meeting.

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