Steamboat Springs The numbers associated with the consumption of plastic bags are staggering.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year. The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually, at an estimated cost to retailers of $4 billion. The bags are said to take more than 1,000 years to decompose.
"These plastic bags - they are just a disaster," Catherine Carson said.
Carson is a member of Yampa Valley Recycles, a group that is launching a reusable shopping bag program in Routt County. The group has purchased 5,000 of the polypropylene bags, which it plans to sell for $1 each. The bags are washable, waterproof and have a carrying capacity equivalent to more than three plastic bags. They sport the Yampa Valley Recycles logo, as well as artwork donated by local artist Joanne Tucker.
"This is a fabulous community, county and city effort to reduce our valley's use of plastic bags," Carson said. "Local retailers have already purchased over 650 bags, and YVR welcomes additional retail participation."
The plastic bag conversation surfaced in Steamboat Springs last summer when the Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 6-1, to ask city staff to explore the feasibility of an ordinance to ban plastic bags in large retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Safeway and City Market.
"It costs a penny to make the bag and 17 cents to recycle it, because they have to be handled by hand," former City Council President Susan Dellinger said in July. "People don't really know that you can't recycle them with the commingled stuff. : If we could stop the manufacturing of the bags, it could save the recycling."
Plastic bags have been banned or taxed for years in South Africa, Kenya, Taiwan, Bangladesh and Ireland. Last year, San Francisco began restricting their use. The prospect of similar regulations in Steamboat since has fallen by the wayside. Yampa Valley Recycles has picked up where the city trailed off, though Carson stressed the initiative is purely voluntary.
"It's not a regulatory group," she said. "It's more of a let's-work-together type of group."
Yampa Valley Recycles will sell its reusable bags from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Safeway and March 8 at City Market. For more information, call Yampa Valley Recycles at 870-7575.