Fee for plastic and paper bags passes first test in Denver

The Denver City Council will soon consider requiring retail stores in the city to charge customers 10 cents for each single-use plastic and paper bag to encourage more sustainable habits.

The city’s Finance and Governance Committee — consisting of six council members — unanimously approved the proposed ordinance Tuesday after a brief discussion.

“We have just gotten accustomed to using (single-use bags) for convenience but most people have access to reusable bags,” said Councilwoman Kendra Black, who chairs the committee and co-sponsored the bill. “You just have to get into the habit of using them.”

The fees should encourage shoppers to make that switch, lowering Denver’s environmental footprint at the same time, Black said.

The proposal falls in line with a trend of cities and states nationwide banning single-use bags or imposing a cost on their use. Eight states — including California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon — have enacted some type of ban, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

And Boulder is among the cities across the country that have imposed a fee for single-use bags. City officials there reported that in its first year, plastic bag consumption fell 68%.

Black said she anticipates similar results in Denver.

If approved by the council, the proposal will head to the desk of Mayor Michael Hancock, who supports it, spokesperson Theresa Marchetta wrote in an email.

The support is a reversal for Hancock, who threatened to veto a 2013 proposal from the council that would have imposed a 5-cent fee on plastic bags. At the time, he said the move would put the city at a disadvantage.

Hancock didn’t support the 2013 proposal because he felt it would have disproportionately hurt the city’s low-income residents, Marchetta said.

“The Mayor has always been more supportive of a ban, but he listened to advocates and heard a fee is more impactful to promote behavior change first,” Marchetta said. “He sees this as a step.”

Money from the fees would be split between retailers and the city. Stores would keep 40% of the cash, turning the rest over to the city, the bill says. Money collected by the city would be used for education, outreach and to offer customers reusable bags.

A nonprofit trade organization representing many major retailers and grocery stores across Colorado supports the measure.

“It strikes a nice balance for everyone and still allows our customers to get the products home that they need without too much mess,” said Chris Howes, president of the Colorado Retail Council.

Part of that balance comes in the 4 cents retailers would receive per bag, which would offset their cost of collecting the fee, Howes said.

Retailers are also glad to see exemptions for bags to hold garments, meat and some other items, he said: “Nobody wants to bring their fresh trout home in a paper bag.”

Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will also be exempt, Black said.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Business


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