Bag fee proposal coming to Steamboat Springs |

Bag fee proposal coming to Steamboat Springs

Yampa Valley Recycles to recommend that city requires fees for disposable bags

Jack Weinstein

Safeway employee Jeff Dockstader bags groceries into plastic bags Friday afternoon. Yampa Valley Recycles is going to recommend to the Steamboat Springs City Council that a required fee be charged for disposable bags.

A variety of Colorado communities will soon consider ordinances that would require grocery stores to charge customers for using disposable plastic bags. Count Steamboat Springs among them.

Yampa Valley Recycles board of directors member Catherine Carson will present a proposal to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Sept. 6 that would impose a 20-cent fee on all disposable shopping bags, including paper and plastic, at large retailers. The definition of large retailer is yet to be determined. Carson said small retailers could choose to participate in the program.

Of the fee, 1 to 2 cents would go to the stores to cover processing fees, Carson said. She said the rest would fund Yampa Valley Recycles' Keep Our Mountain Green reusable bag program, specifically to provide the bags to people who receive assistance from social service organizations and to provide education.

Carson said charging for the use of disposable bags was an extension of the reusable bag program. She said Yampa Valley Recycles has sold 12,000 bags for $1 each since the program began three years ago.

"They've been very well received but we feel we've reached the point now to take the next step," she said. "Really what it is, is a step for zero waste. The community has been very supportive of the Zero Waste Initiative that the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council championed. Reducing plastic bags is one step to get waste out of our community."

The Aspen Times reported last week that the Aspen City Council would consider a bag fee Aug. 22, while it will come before the Basalt Town Council and Carbondale Board of Trustees on Aug. 23.

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Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf said she wasn't familiar with Yampa Valley Recycles' proposal from Steamboat but would like to be part of the decision-making process. She said the grocery store chain could share its experiences in other communities that have banned or imposed fees on bags.

"We don't support efforts that ban plastic bans only," Staaf said. "That moves people to paper bags, which is much more expensive. People think paper has to be better. They're bulkier, they're heavier and they don't degrade that much faster than plastic.

"If a community is looking at placing a fee on bags, we would support a fee, if they're going in that direction, on both," she added. "It shouldn't be one or the other."

Staaf added that Safeway allows customers to recycle plastic bags.

City Council member Walt Magill, a council liaison to Yampa Valley Recycles, said he initially supported the proposal but has since changed his mind.

Steamboat doesn't have a problem with plastic bags blowing around the city, Magill said. He said imposing a bag fee was an insignificant step until plastic wasn't used to wrap food products or by smaller retailers and restaurants.

"I'm interested to see what Basalt and Aspen have," Magill said. "We're not getting a community call for this. And it's going to be expensive for our guests and hard to monitor for our stores."

Magill added that grocery bags were useful for household purposes. Carson acknowledged that many people use disposable plastic bags for purposes besides toting their groceries, but she said local stores sell biodegradable plastic bags that would be better.

She said disposable bags are costly, require a lot of oil to produce, don't degrade and have been found "from the bottom of the ocean to the top of (Mount) Everest."

City Council President Cari Hermacinski said she would have preferred the proposal to come from the stores.

"I'd like to see things happen because the marketplace creates it not because government requires it," she said.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

Agenda highlights

5 p.m. Yampa Valley Recycles grocery bag fee proposal; joint meeting with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Board of Directors; and consideration of a second reading of an ordinance to adopt the Uniform Election Code of 1992 for the regular municipal election Nov. 1.

7 p.m. Public comment; consideration of Casey’s Pond senior citizen community final development plan; second reading of an ordinance to permit goats on small residential lots and an economic development update.

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