Elementary school students ask Steamboat Springs City Council to help reduce use of plastic bags | SteamboatToday.com

Elementary school students ask Steamboat Springs City Council to help reduce use of plastic bags

Strawberry Park Elementary School students show off their reusable bags Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. The students asked the city council to address the use of plastic bags.

— As a crowd of doting parents snapped photos behind them, a class of fourth-graders told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night that the city should rethink the use of plastic bags.

"We have millions of barrels of oil to make these plastic bags, and after all that, we just throw away these plastic bags," one student told the council. "We need to find a better way to use our natural resources."

Another student in Katie Malone's class at Strawberry Park Elementary School pointed out that towns and cities such as Telluride, Boulder and Carbondale either have banned or put a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags.

The students chose to research plastic bags and the debate surrounding them for a class project.

Here in Steamboat, talk of possibly restricting the use of plastic bags either by a ban or with a fee was put on hold in 2011 as city officials waited to see how they were received in other cities.

City Council members specifically are waiting on the outcome of a lawsuit brought in 2012 against the city of Aspen about the use of a fee on disposable bags.

The Colorado Union of Taxpayers brought that lawsuit against Aspen saying the fee was a tax that had been initiated without the approval of voters.

Union President Gregory Golyansky said Thursday the lawsuit remains active.

"Our lawyers are talking, and hopefully the Aspen City Council will see the light," he said. "If not, there will be a fight."

Because of the unresolved suit, Steamboat and local sustainability organizations remain in a wait-and-see mode.

City Council President Bart Kounovsky said Thursday that he appreciated the presentation by the class of students.

Other council members also enjoyed the visit from the students.

But Kounovsky said there still is no energy on the current council to schedule an agenda item on the use of plastic bags before the Aspen case is resolved.

Meanwhile, other cities are moving forward with the restrictions and reporting their results.

The city of Boulder reported in March that the use of disposable grocery bags in the city had dropped 68 percent in the first six months since adding a 10-cent fee.

The fee generated $136,753.

According to the Daily Camera, the city enacted the bag fees as a response to calls from student activists to ban the bags and to divert trash from landfills.

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Director Sarah Jones said her organization and Yampa Valley Recycles recently talked about the possible next steps for bag use in Steamboat.

"Someone was going to look and see what is going on in Aspen to see if maybe we can take the kids' initiative and move it down the road and see what our options are," she said. "I think the kids learned a ton about the process. I loved the kids' enthusiasm because they don't see all the hurdles, they just say we want to do this, let's do this. I thought they did such a great job."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10