Let’s Talk Plastic Free plastic bags are too expensive

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Let’s Talk Plastic

Free plastic bags are too expensive

    • United States uses 100 billion plastic bags per year:
    • = 12 million barrels of petroleum or 504 million gallons
    • = $4 billion/year cost passed onto consumers
    • 13 bags = petroleum to drive 1 mile
    • Plastic bags take 400 – 1,000 years to biodegrade
    • Less than 10% of plastic bags are recycled

Wildlife and the Environment

    • An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and up to 1 million sea birds die every year after ingesting or being tangled in plastic  marine litter.
    • Plastic bags travel:  they float easily in the air and water. 
    • They have been found on the bottom of the ocean and the top of Mt. Everest
    • They are litter; clogging waterways and sewers
    • They contaminate compost and hinder recycling efforts

½ Days Litter Without Even Looking

What about paper bags?

  • Customers are rarely asked “Paper or Plastic” anymore because paper is no better:
    • High energy from production,
    • use, and disposal as well as:
    • High water, atmospheric emissions
    • High cost and solid waste
  • Paper uses 14 million trees annually
  • Paper must be turned to pulp when recycled, creating cardboard, not more paper bags
  • Paper doesn’t break down completely in landfills without light and oxygen
  • Neither is Better!

Steamboat’s Green Bag History

    • 1990:  local activists and YVR produced 300 reusable bags
    • 2008 – local activists approached YVR to energize bag program
    • 2008 – 2011:  Routt County Commissioners granted YVR “seed” money for a self sustaining revolving fund to purchase and sell reusable shopping bags:
    • To date, approx 8,000 bags sold at cost
      • Local small retailers
      • Promotions at large retailers, including:
        • Thanksgiving “Put Your Turkey in a Bag”
        • Christmas “Bag Your Gifts”
        • Start your New Year with a Green Bag
        • Saint Patrick Day Green Bags
    • 2009 Colorado Association of Ski Towns Bag Challenge
      • Steamboat finished 6th in per capita savings & 3rd in total bags saved
      • Steamboat shoppers used 169,285 reusable bags from March – August, 2009
    • “Bagit” Movie – March, 2011
      • 135 attendees asked YVR to bring the discussion to the next level

Success in Other Communities around the World

  • World Wide Bag Bans:
    • 1999 Corsica in large stores – first island
    • 2002 Bangladesh all polyethylene bags – first large country
    • 2003 Taiwan plastic plates, cups, cutlery
    • 2003 Himachal Pradesh India manufacture, sale, and use of all plastic bags
    • 2003 South Africa – all think plastic bags, retailers not in compliance fined $13,000US
    • 2003 Rwanda – all polythene products
    • 2004 Papa New Guinea all plastic bags, retailers not in compliance face jail time
    • 2005 Delhi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Goa, Keral and Karmatak States of India
    • 2006 Tanzania all plastic bags
    • 2007 Taiwan all plastic bags
    • 2007 Kenya and Uganda all plastic bags
    • 2008 China all plastic bags – production, sale and use of bags under .025mm thick
    • 2008 Buenos Aires all plastic bags, must be biodegradable by 2010
    • 2009 South Australia all plastic bags
    • 2009 Bolivia all plastic bags
    • 2010 France all non biodegradable bags at all shops
    • 2010 Sioux Lookout, Ontario all plastic bags
    • 2010 Wood Buffalo, Alberta all single use bags
    • 2010 Manitoba all single use bags
    • 2010 Thompson Canada plastic bags
    • 2011 Italy all non biodegradable bags at all shops
    • 2011 Northern Territory Australia all plastic bags
    • 2011 New South Wales all plastic bags
  • US cities Bag Bans:
  • 2007 San Francisco first US city - all plastic bags
  • 2008 Manhattan Beach CA – all plastic bags
  • 2008 Malibu City CA – all plastic bags, fine up to $1000
  • 2009 North Carolina barrier islands plastic bags
  • 2009 Edmonds WA – all plastic bags
  • 2009 Kaua’i and Maui HI – all plastic bags
  • 2010 Los Angeles – all single use plastic bags, replacing a 10c tax
  • 2011 Long Beach CA – plastic bags
  • 2011 Calabasas CA – plastic bags
  • 2011 Santa Monica CA – plastic bags
  • 2011 Santa Clara CA – plastic bags
  • 2011 Portland Oregon – all plastic bags in stores larger than 10,000 sq ft
  • 2011 Maui HI – all plastic bags
  • 2011 Telluride CO – all plastic bags townwide within town limits
  • 2011 Westport CT – all plastic bags
  • 2011 Brownville TX – all plastic bags
  • Success at Home

Countries and Cities with Green Fees

  • 2002 Ireland 2007 Belgium 2008 Israel 2010 Washington DC 2010 Mexico City 2010 Telluride CO 2011 Wales
  • 2011 Bulgaria
  • 2011 Brownsville TX
  • 2011 Aspen CO 2011 Basalt CO

Best Case Study: Ireland

  • In 2002 Ireland began charging 28cents US for plastic and paper bags.
  • This green fee reduced non reusable bag usage by 95%.
  • Now nearly everyone in Ireland supports their community and proudly carries a reusable bag.

The Green Fee is NOT a “Tax”

  • Green Fee
    • Designed to educate 
    • Reduces the use of disposable bags
    • Similar to Use Fees like:
      • Fish Creek Falls parking fee
      • Routt County Landfill tipping fee
      • Disposal fees for tires, car batteries, and motor oil
  • Tax
    • Effects everyone regardless of use
    • Is harder to modify
    • Less choice/options

Carrots are good for you, but they don’t reduce plastic bag use

    • As studies have shown, City Market and Safeway also found that their reusable bag credits proved ineffective.
    • What is effective:
    • Any fee placed on the bags must be large enough to influence consumer choices, while remaining politically acceptable. (ICF 2010)
    • Education, though not sufficient by itself, is a necessary component of any economic instrument aimed to reduce bag Consumption (Herrera 2008).
    • Fees that are directly passed onto consumers have been effective at altering behavior (Herrera et al 2008 – 133).
  • Carrot or a Stick?

Colorado Mountain Towns

    • Telluride
      • October, 2010 banned plastic bags + 10 cents per bag fee on “permitted paper bags”
    • Aspen
      • August, 2011, passed first reading for 20 cents per bag fee on all non reusable bags at grocers
    • Basalt
      • August, 2011, passed first reading for 20 cents per bag fee on all non reusable bags at grocers
    • Carbondale
      • September 2011, first reading is scheduled on ordinance for 20 cents per bag fee on all non reusable bags at grocers

Colorado Mountain Towns’ # 1 Goal: Support environment & reduce plastic

    • Aspen’s program funds local environmental programs including:
      • Programs and infrastructure to reduce waste and to recycle
      • Community cleanup events
      • Education and public website
      • Reusable bags to residents and visitors
      • Administer bag program, including 5% retained by stores, with a maximum of $100 monthly, $1,200 annually and $25 monthly thereafter
  • But, what about funds generated?

The Steamboat Way: Focus on community

  • Our environment is important to our locals, visitors and economy.
  • We ski, hike, bike and shop green! How can we reduce plastic in our environment?
  • Bans aren’t “Steamboat Friendly”
  • Recognize the value of regional programs, and “Steamboatize” this idea


    • Begin with a “trial program” which can be reviewed modified, and managed
    • Consider starting with all non reusable shopping bags at large, high use stores that sell groceries - focus on the goal of reducing plastic use
    • The stores have and will continue to be our “bag partners,” have participating stores retain 1-2c/bag without a maximum
    • Let other stores opt in, at their discretion
    • Any proposed fee should be meaningful towards reducing non reusable bag use: consider keeping it on par with regional discussions at 20c
    • The goal is to reduce plastic; but, what about the funds?
      • Keep it similar to Routt County’s tipping fee, with funds targeted toward waste reduction, recycling and other environmental programs
      • A “bag program” to purchase bags for low income residents and to offer reusable bags at a discount
      • Public information and store signage are also possibilities for a “bag program”
    • Continue current “green bag”, recycling and zero waste efforts
  • Think Global - Act Local
  • Keep our Mountains Green and thank you for talking plastic!

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