Citizens Group Pushes City Council to Repeal Disposable Shopping Bag Fee

Downtown "Old Town" Fort Collins
Downtown “Old Town” Fort Collins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 21 October 2014, the Fort Collins, Colorado City Council repealed the disposable bag ordinance which would have imposed a 5-cent fee for each disposable paper or plastic bag distributed by retailers in the city beginning on April 1, 2015. (Gordon, 2014)

The ordinance was originally passed by the council on a 5-2 vote on August, 19, 2014.  The ordinance would have required all retailers to impose a fee of 5-cents for each disposable paper or plastic shopping bag issued at the point of sale to customers.  Exempt from the fee are plastic or paper bags used to package bulk food items and bags used to contain frozen food or meat and prevent contamination of reusable bags.  Also exempt from the fee are newspaper bags, dry-cleaning bags, and bags sold in bulk packages to consumers such as trash bags. The purpose of the fee was to discourage use of disposable bags and encourage the use of reusable bags. (City of Fort Collins, 2014)

The ordinance met with swift opposition and the group Citizens For Recycling Choices filed a protest with the City Clerk’s Office on August 26, 2014. (Udell, Fighters of plastic bag fee out gathering signatures, 2014) The group needed to collect 2,604 signatures and managed to collect more than 4,000 signatures. (Udell, Bag fee opponents collect more than 4K signatures, 2014) The group used social media and word of mouth to publicize the signature gathering effort. (Udell, Fighters of plastic bag fee out gathering signatures, 2014)

Mike Pruznick, an opponent of the bag fee and who helped to start the 200-member Citizens for Recycling Choices group, said that the bag fee does not protect the environment, because shoppers will avoid the fee and stop getting plastic bags at grocery stores and instead of having these plastic bags on hand to reuse, such as for taking out the trash, will start using larger bags that contain more plastic. He stated that there is a use for both bags in our society. (CBS Denver, 2014)

The group had great support from residents to overturn the disposable bag fee. Some shoppers indicated that they would shop in neighboring communities if the bag fee was not overturned.

After the council repealed the ordinance, they also directed the City Manager not to pursue bag fees/bans as part of the Zero Waste program.

The City Council reiterated the City’s commitment to reuse and recycling by accelerating zero-waste goals in a new Zero Waste Resolution.

“We heard our citizens and responded – the disposable bags ordinance is not the way to go,” said Bruce Hendee, Chief Sustainability Officer. “However, our community has old us that they want us to continue to find innovative ways to increase recycling and environmental sustainability, especially with the Larimer County Landfill filling up. Tonight, we accelerated that road to zero waste by suggesting staff explore some key techniques.” (Gordon, 2014)

The resolution adopted Tuesday directs staff to take a number of specific, short-term steps:

  • Expand community-wide awareness of measures to prevent waste from being created
  • Construct a new Community Recycling Center in 2015, subject to funding approval, for a one-stop recycling facility that also accepts a variety of hard-to- recycle materials such as electronic waste and certain household hazardous wastes
  • Explore a universal recycling ordinance that would improve access to curbside recycling and organics collection for residents and businesses

Bibliography

CBS Denver. (2014, September 19). Fort Collins Group Pushes City Council To Reconsider Bag Fee. Retrieved from CBS Denver: http://denver.cbslocal.com/2014/09/19/fort-collins-group-pushes-city-council-to-reconsider-bag-fee/

City of Fort Collins. (2014, August 19). ORDINANCE NO. 099 DISPOSABLE BAGS. Retrieved October 22, 2014, from City of Fort collins: http://www.fcgov.com/publicnotices/view-ordinance.php?id=1531&ts=4802d2ba766ac1c8716d43aac5095f2c

Gordon, S. (2014, October 22). City Council Repeals Bag Ordinance, Approves Road to Zero Waste Resolution. Retrieved from City of Fort Collins: http://www.fcgov.com/news/?id=5627

Udell, E. (2014, September 10). Fighters of plastic bag fee out gathering signatures. Retrieved from http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/local/2014/09/09/bag-fee-opposition-group-gathering-signatures/15365725/

Udell, E. (2014, September 29). Bag fee opponents collect more than 4K signatures. Retrieved from Coloradoan: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/local/2014/09/29/bag-fee-opponents-collect-k-signatures/16452381/

Udell, E. (2014, September 10). Fighters of plastic bag fee out gathering signatures. Retrieved from Coloradoan: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/local/2014/09/09/bag-fee-opposition-group-gathering-signatures/15365725/

 

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