Boulder Considers Plastic Bag Ban, Fees

City Council Request More Information

In parts of Colorado, paper or plastic may soon not be a choice.

"We don't want to see plastics anymore wasting resources and polluting our oceans," said Josh Brown, a member of the Fairview High School environmental club that has lobbied Boulder City Council for a plastic bag ban.

The council had a study session Monday night to look at several options, including an outright ban or a fee on plastic and paper bags.

"To me, I think the thing with bags is it's just a habit, and how do you get people to develop a new habit," said Boulder Mayor Susan Osborne during the study session.

A Boulder report on the issue showed that reducing plastic bags wouldn't divert a significant amount of weight from the landfill, but would address other priorities such as reducing potential toxicity in the environment.

Researchers estimated that Boulder citizens use somewhere between 9 million and 53 million plastic bags a year, and that a fee could generate as much as $3.7 million.

While some council members said that the fee could be a revenue generator for other projects, others cautioned against that line of thought.

"I have problems with seeing this as a way of raising revenues," said City Council Member Matt Appelbaum. "I'm uncomfortable with using this as a back-door way to fund other projects." The Boulder Chamber of Commerce issued a letter cautioning council members against a ban or fee, and the trade association for grocery stores came out against bans or fees.

"If it's a revenue source, then ask the citizens if they want to pay an additional tax, because that's what it is," said Mary Loud Chapman with the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association.

Monday night, Aspen approved a ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper bags, and Telluride already has a fee.

The majority of Boulder council members seemed to favor fees over bans, Monday night, but they asked the city staff to further analyze the issue and community support and report back with the results.