Kathy Vaynkof carries reusable grocery bags while shopping Thursday at City Market in Steamboat Springs. A growing group of residents is hoping to assess fees on or ban disposable, plastic bags at Steamboat stores. Telluride’s plastic-bag ban started March 1.

Photo by John F. Russell

Kathy Vaynkof carries reusable grocery bags while shopping Thursday at City Market in Steamboat Springs. A growing group of residents is hoping to assess fees on or ban disposable, plastic bags at Steamboat stores. Telluride’s plastic-bag ban started March 1.

Plastic bag issues resurface in Steamboat


For more

Bud Werner Memorial Library has added “Bag It” to its film collection. Ask about it at the library, or read about the film and issues it addresses at www.bagitmovie.com.


Lisa Kirkland holds a knitted plant hanger that she made out of plastic grocery bags. While Kirkland is attempting to finds a creative way of addressing the problem of plastic grocery bags, a growing group of residents is hoping to either assess fees on or ban disposable, plastic bags at Steamboat stores.


Lisa Kirkland holds a knitted doormat that she made out of plastic grocery bags. While Kirkland is attempting to finding a creative way of addressing the problem o, plastic grocery bags a growing group of residents is hoping to either assess fees on or ban disposable, plastic bags at Steamboat stores.

— A film screening last week fueled discussion of renewed efforts to significantly reduce the use of disposable plastic bags in Steamboat Springs.

Catherine Carson, of Yampa Valley Recycles, said Wednesday that an ordinance to ban the use of plastic bags in local retail stores or, more likely, charge a fee for their use, could appear before the Steamboat Springs City Council this year. That would revive public discussion that escalated in summer 2007, when a previous City Council asked city staff to explore a potential ordinance to ban plastic bags in large retail stores such as Walmart, Safeway and City Market.

Those efforts fizzled.

“I think last time it just fell apart because it wasn’t a priority of council,” former City Council President Susan Dellinger said Saturday from Louisville.

But efforts since have picked up in other Western Slope communities.

Telluride’s ban of disposable plastic bags in retail stores went into effect March 1, after adoption of an ordinance in October. Last month, the Aspen City Council “showed general support for requiring a fee on every disposable paper or plastic bag used during checkout at local retail outlets, stopping well short of recommending an outright ban,” according to The Aspen Times.

Bob Dapper is director of mountain operations for Christy Sports, which has two Telluride stores and five Steamboat locations consisting of two Christy Sports, two SportStalker stores and one Powder Tools store.

Dapper said that Christy Sports is supportive of environmental efforts but that costs can be challenging for businesses. Their costs for bags in Telluride stores increased from “pennies apiece” to about 15 cents per bag, he said.

“The plastic bags they use in the food stores, we couldn’t use — our bags are nice bags,” Dapper said. “To duplicate that is not cheap. It’s not just a bag you fill with groceries and that may or may not fall apart.”

Dapper said Christy Sports employees first ask customers whether they want a bag at all. Providing a quality bag for customers who say “yes” proved pricey.

“We ended up having to source a nonplastic bag,” he said. “Because there’s very few people making non­­­plastic bags right now, the price was sky high.

“I think it was inordinately expensive,” Dapper continued. “Our first impression in Telluride is that we’re not sold on the fact that everybody did their homework on what the solution would be, going away from” plastic bags.

Carson said that Yampa Valley Recycles has sold more than 10,000 of its green reusable bags, for $1 each, but that those sales “have sort of plateaued.”

Mass consumption

Interest in reducing plastic bag use appears to be spreading in Steamboat.

Scores of people old and young filled Library Hall in Bud Werner Memorial Library on Wednesday night to watch “Bag It,” a film about the staggering consumption of modern life and its impacts on marine ecosystems and human health. In addition to telling the story of a young couple’s desire to reduce their plastic use and toxic chemical intake while awaiting the birth of their first child, “Bag It” also rolls out, one after another, mind-bending numbers that result from extrapolating personal consumption across countries and continents.

About 12 million barrels of oil per year are used to make the plastic bags that Americans consume — 102 billion bags in 2009 — the film reports. People worldwide use 500 billion plastic bags per year, according to “Bag It,” making the ubiquitous, disposable carry-alls the No. 1 consumer item on the planet.

Plastic bags and beverage bottles often wind up in waterways and, ultimately, oceans, where they break down and become food for marine animals that mistake tiny plastic toxins for plankton.

“There are so many bags out there now,” said Gigi Walker, who showed up early and stayed late at Wednesday’s film showing. Representatives from Yampa Valley Recycles, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Yampatika were on hand.

City Council members Meg Bentley and Walter Magill each expressed support for renewing the public discussion.

“It’s a small step we could do in a positive direction,” Magill said about plastic bag reduction. “I’d support doing something.”

What “something” might be remains undecided. Carson said a fee for disposable bags at City Market, Walmart and Safeway could be the most likely way to start the process, but numerous discussions need to occur.

“We need to speak with the big stores,” Carson said.

Meanwhile, amid all the discussions, Lisa Kirkland is finding other uses for plastic bags in her West End Village home. She recently crafted a doormat out of 40 or so plastic bags and has used light-brown bags to create a macramé plant hanger, as well.

She said she’d be in favor of an ordinance to reduce plastic bags in Steamboat.

“I would definitely support it,” Kirkland said. “But then I would run out of my craft.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com


exduffer 5 years, 2 months ago

It is either all or nothing folks. Everyone plays or no one.


addlip2U 5 years, 2 months ago

The cost of plastic or paper bag is already charged to the customer as it is part of cost of doing business. The plastic grocery bag is recycled several times and often, eventually ending for picking up a dog poo or to hold household garbage. That appears to be a logical way to give the plastic grocery bag many uses rather than purchasing a specific new plastic bag for just "garbage".


jerry carlton 5 years, 2 months ago

More social engineering with "The Government" wanting to control every aspect of our lives. I recycle everything that can be recycled. I put my compost in the garden. I recycle torn plastic bags at Walmart or City Market. I use intact bags as liners for bathroom garbage cans instead of buying plastic bags for that purpose. When we have babies visit dirty diapers go in them. EDUCATE DO NOT LEGISLATE


sledneck 5 years, 2 months ago

We used paper bags till environmentalists told us we were killing too many trees. Now we use plastic and let the BEETLES kill the trees by refusing to allow logging.

As far as passing laws banning bags I would laugh but for the fact that some people actually find it an acceptable proposal which, instead of laughing, makes me want to cry.

Folks, we are rapidly reaching that Orwellian point at which "That which is not fordibben is compulsory."

Environmentalism deserves a place on the podium right beside Communism and Marxism. Freedom is as far from all 3 as the east is from the west.


Jason Miller 5 years, 2 months ago

Oh goodie im helping the planet but still driving my gas guzzler.


Kevin Chapman 5 years, 2 months ago

Once when i was in Toronto, Ontario i noticed they charged like 2 or 5 cents for each bag. I think it's a nice simple deterent to people hoarding these bags as they seem difficult to recycle. (queue the dumb redneck comments about obama, socialism and how this will somehow turn into rednecks losing their guns- maybe even a mention about the constitutional right as an am-ur-ican to have plastic bags)


Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

It the plastic bag was a substantial source of pollution and banning them had any substantial impact instead of being costly gesture then it might make sense.

When I happen to need a plastic bag, I note the packaging trash of it's contents is about 100 times as much as the bag itself.

And there is already an implied fee because many stores will give a discount if you provide a bag.

But overall, this sort of idea is an example of what is wrong with this country. Instead of spending the effort of doing what is meaningful, we spend effort on meaningless gestures for issues that a motivated person already can do the desired solution. No one is forcing anyone to use plastic bags.

I note the green machine recycling is only available at a location for a week and it seems to get filled quickly. How about making a real difference and keep several at different locations all the time? I've also had business owners tell me they were asked to not use the green machines because they filled it up too quickly. Maybe we should find a way to put community recycling containers in commercial districts so the businesses could recycle cardboard without having to double the number of dumpsters.


greenwash 5 years, 2 months ago

Great idea Scott , Think those business would be willing to pay for that service? Recycling isnt free nor should it be.Everyone should have to pay to play....Enough of the Government handouts .


Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

I think businesses would be willing, in principle, to pay for cardboard recycling that did not require an additional dumpster on their property that consumed another precious parking spot. In theory, that would allow them to have a smaller dumpster that would cost less each month. So paying for the recycling dumpster could be cost neutral for businesses.

The devil would be in the details of a shared dumpster because presumably businesses or individuals not paying for it, could use it. It might take MainStreet or such stepping in and paying some difference and then promoting how downtown recycles so many tons of cardboard per month. MainStreet could presumably justify paying for what might be a subsidy of people coming to downtown to recycle cardboard as an inexpensive cost of bringing more customers to downtown.

I think a key to it being accepted would be limiting number of cardboard dumpsters to only one or two per block and the dumpsters being emptied when full which might be several times a week and require a Saturday and/or Sunday pickups.

Recycling should not be expected to be free, but something is wrong if recycling costs much more than using the dump. There should be value recovered in recycling and value in not consuming space in the dump. And if there is enough volume of recycled cardboard then maybe one of the service companies that bring so much cardboard to the valley could be convinced to backhaul at an good price to also get some good PR. Or maybe there would be enough volume to justify filling railcars and having a recycling train to where ever pays the most for cardboard.


OnTheBusGus 5 years, 2 months ago

Recycling should be free since the recycled goods are bought from the recycler (Waste Mgt) by companies that reuse the material. That is where WM makes money. Everyone who recycles is putting money into WM, after WM deducts their costs of preparing the material for sale of course. My friends who live in Boulder say they are charged for the weight of the trash that is picked up curbside but anything that is in the recycle bin is picked up for free. Another friend works for this company, http://www.sonoco.com/ which purchases recycled materials from recycling plants and turns it into packaging. And yes, we do need more green machines. Maybe add another one for the weekends as the two we currently have fill up fast!


mtroach 5 years, 2 months ago

Let's not forget that businesses already pay for removal of discarded boxes and other items that can be recycled. I can't tell you how many jobsite dumpsters I see filled with cardboard. Just stupid to pay $300/per dump for disposal of an item that can be recycled. When I worked for the ski corp the recycling department "made" money for the resort by reducing the volume of trash collection by 1/2. Local businesses can easily reduce the volume of trash by not landfilling recycleables.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

mtroach, Businesses could easily not put cardboard into their dumpster but it is not so easy for all of them to have a recycling dumpster to put the cardboard. Downtown is short on parking and dumpsters often take the space of an employee parking spot. So every downtown business adding a cardboard recycling dumpster is not trivial.

Which is why I think it would be more practical to add a community recycling dumpster per block or such.

Last night on the TV show Modern Marvels they showed a high tech dumpster sized bag that does not leak. So it was being promoted for hauling away hazardous materials. I wonder if it might also be useful for recycling as a container that could be put inside a semi that delivers good to SB without causing the need to decontaminate the truck before the next delivery. That sort of bag would seem to allow great confidence that the recycling load would be clean and sanitary even if some idiot put food waste into the cardboard recycling.


mtntrekker 5 years, 2 months ago

What about the tourists who fly in for the week. Do they need to pack their own reusable bags? How about stores use plastic bags one day or week then reusable/paper bags the next. I am all for getting rid of plastic bags, I have a couple of ruseable bags but I keep forgetting to take them with me. I use plastic grocery bags for dog poo. Bread/tortilla bags work for dog poo as well.


greenwash 5 years, 1 month ago

And there in lies the problem.....Some people think recycling should be free and it isnt , nor should it be .


sledneck 5 years, 1 month ago

Nothing is free. If you are not paying for your (whatever, bus ride, recycling, medicine etc) someone else is. Just because somehow conditions have been manipulated to give the user a low PRICE does not change the COST to someone, somewhere else.


exduffer 5 years, 1 month ago

Sled- you need to put in the air you breath at the top of that list


sledneck 5 years, 1 month ago

Would you tax that TOO duffer?... the very air I breath?

Tax your car, Tax your gas, Tax your weed, Tax your ass, Tax your food, Tax your fun, Oneday soon we'll tax your sun. Tax your whiskey, Tax your wife, Pretty soon we'll run your life. Tax your doctor, and your land, see who's got the upper hand, Nowhere you can go to hide, Uncle Scam is NATIONWIDE!


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

What are you going on about?

The issue is not increasing funding for schools, but dealing with cuts in funding.


bandmama 5 years, 1 month ago

I for one, am happy to report that I am recycling, every time my dog poos, I am sending another bag to the land fill. Yup. dont think I am taxed on that either!!!!


exduffer 5 years, 1 month ago

How about the city make the ski areas charge a vertical foot fee for all riders on the hill. Those who use the lifts the most pay the most. After all, every time you ride you are causing the lifts to use more electricity and the groomers to groom more. Might as well drop the season passes at the golf course too, the more you play the more maintenance that is needed. You could give recreation credits for bus or bike riding or walking to the event of your choice.


exduffer 5 years, 1 month ago

How about charging the Pilot for every newspaper that is not recycled?


Troutguy 5 years, 1 month ago

The U.S. uses 12 million barrels of oil a year to produce these plastic bags. The drill baby drill, gotta get us off foreign oil crowd should be behind this 100% as it would mean using/importing less foreign oil.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Troutguy, No one is saying that it is good to throw away plastic bags. People say they use those bags instead of other bags. It has also been noted that no one is ever forced to use these bag and people always have the option to bring their own bags or not use a bag.

Also, that the costs of banning plastic bags is not the most cost effective means of reducing trash to the landfill.


mtroach 5 years, 1 month ago

Trout excellent point. It's silly to use bags from oil we could be burning in our cars. Where's the Tea party when you need them. These kind of common sence ways to reduce our oil dependance should be accepted by all too slow our financial support for our arab oil "dealers".


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.