ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Aspen leaders were scheduled Tuesday evening to vote on a proposal that would ban grocery stores from using plastic bags.

The towns of Telluride and Basalt have already banned the use of plastic bags by stores. Boulder will discuss a similar measure Tuesday evening.

Right now in Aspen they’re considering a hefty usage fee or a ban all together. Environmental groups say the plastic bags produce way too much waste. But the two markets in town say they’re being unfairly targeted.

The proposal to ban plastic bags at grocery stores in Aspen isn’t sitting well with the Clark family, which has run the only locally-owned market in Aspen for nearly 35 years. They’ve been trying to reach a compromise for a year.

“I think that if the true intention is to ban plastic bags then they would look at a ban across the entire city. But to go to one industry, the grocery industry, and say, ‘You can’t use this resource,’ and all the other pharmacies and retail stores and restaurants can use it; I think that’s incredibly unfair,” the owner said.

The latest proposal is completely banning plastic bags and charging a 20 cent fee to all the paper bags. The idea is to get customers to bring their own. It’s a plan the stores don’t like, but many Aspen residents do.

“Plastic bags are one of the most ubiquitous signs of waste and if you can ask people to address that in their daily lives, you’re making a major cultural change,” Nathan Ratledge with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency said.

But the grocers think that change is coming with too hefty a price. Not just the 20 cent fee, but paper bags cost the store about three times as much, compared to plastic.

“It seems like a new tax that they’re posing as a fee,” a grocer said.

“It’s more of an impact fee; no one has to pay this. It’s a consumer’s choice if they want to use a specific product,” Ratledge said.

The money from the paper bag fee would go toward educating citizens and visitors, urging them to use their own bags.

If Aspen follows the others that have banned plastic bags, they’re expected to be out of the markets in the spring.


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