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To Reduce Plastic Bag Waste, Fort Collins May Allow Businesses To Charge Customers

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Lauren Dispirito By Lauren DiSpirito
CBS4 Northern Newsroom Reporter
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) - After months of planning and attempts to seek public input, Fort Collins’ city council is again considering changes to a proposed city-wide disposable bag ordinance.

Leaders began discussing the idea more than one year ago, in an effort to reduce waste generated within the city. Fort Collins Councilman Gino Campana says each year residents use an average of 52 million disposable plastic bags. Because the bags cannot be recycled, they end up in landfills.

Last month, council members voted 5-2 to approve an ordinance that would require grocers operating within city limits charge customers 10 cents for each disposable bag they use. The item is scheduled for a final vote Tuesday, but now the council is considering other ways to reduce waste from plastic bags.

“How we achieve that and the methods we use to achieve that is where we had some controversy,” Campana said.

Campana said that since July’s vote council members have received more feedback from grocers and shoppers. Some people questioned the proposed 10 cent fee, he says, telling leaders the figure seemed arbitrary, given bags typically cost just four to five cents each. Campana says other people did not want their city government dictating what businesses do. Therefore, the council is now considering a proposal that would let stores, rather than city government, set the bag fee. He added that the council would encourage businesses to charge the true cost of the bag.

“Let’s let the grocers disclose exactly what those costs are, and if you choose to use reusable bags, you no longer have to pay for disposable bags your neighbor is using,” Campana said.

The original ordinance was drafted only to include grocers. A new proposal would expand the ordinance to include retailers. Campana cites statistics that show, in general, 60 percent of plastic bags in a community come from grocery stores. The council now wants to address the remaining 40 percent by including retailers and newspaper deliveries in a revised ordinance.

“Why not tackle all of them?” Campana asked.

Newspaper providers would not necessarily have to charge per bag, Campana says, but instead only deliver their papers inside plastic bags if their customers require it. That would make delivery inside a plastic bag the exception, not the rule. Restaurants, take-out businesses, farmer’s market vendors and retailers participating in temporary events would be exempt.

The city council is set to vote on the old version of the ordinance at its meeting Tuesday and will also decide whether to bring forward a new version. Should leaders decide to vote on a first reading of a new ordinance at that time, they would then be required to hold a second reading and second vote next month, before the plan could become finalized.

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