Boulder’s Proposed Grocery Bag Fee Sliced in Half
Introduced in May of this year, Boulder Colorado’s bag ordinance originally called for a 20-cent fee on all checkout bags. Back on October 2nd, the Boulder City Council unanimously passed the ordinance mandating that grocery and convenience stores charge a 20-cent fee on all checkout bags – paper and plastic.
A second reading was required and that was held yesterday, October 16th. A divided council voted 5-3 to reduce the fee from 20 cents after several members raised concerns about how the city had arrived at the 20-cent fee.
Originally, consultants from TischlerBise Inc. assessed what plastic bags now cost, both directly and in terms of the indirect costs to the area’s waste management companies. They also looked at the additional costs to grocery stores, what it would cost to administer a bag fee, and the costs associated with education and distribution of free, reusable shopping bags.
After all their research, TischlerBise Inc. arrived at a 20-cent fee, with 4 cents staying with the retailers. Several City Council members, however, said that the fee included too many indirect costs and that the city had not sufficiently explained how it would spend the money on advertising and education. In addition, the city plans on buying and distributing reusable bags to low-income residents.
Because the October 16th vote represents such a significant change, the ordinance will go back to the council at the November 1st meeting for a third reading. If passed on November 1st, the fee will not go into effect until July 2013. The fee would apply to all paper and plastic bags at food retailers, including grocery stores, convenience stores and Target. Gas stations would be exempt if food sales are less than 2 percent of their business.
A single Boulder resident was the only person who spoke out against the fee at the meeting Tuesday night. She doesn’t believe the city should penalize people for using disposable bags. But, Leigh Cushing, campaign coordinator for Eco-Cycle (one of the largest non-profit recyclers in the USA that has an international reputation as a pioneer and innovator in resource conservation – and they brought recycling to Boulder in 1976) said people can still use plastic bags when they want them. They’ll just have to pay for them, which she said is appropriate.
Eco-Cycle was created 36 years ago by everyday residents who had a passionate belief in conserving the natural resources of Boulder. These Eco-Cycle volunteers brought recycling to town in 1976, making Boulder one of the first 20 communities in the U.S. to offer curbside recycling. They continue to be driven by these same passions and innovative actions today.