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Grab A Tote Bag Fort Collins: City Considers Disposable Bag Charge

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Fort Collins may become the next Colorado city to implement a disposable bag ordinance aimed at reducing waste by encouraging the use of reusable bags.

If approved, it would require grocers to charge 5 to 10 cents per single-use bag – which includes plastic or paper used at checkout.

Cities with similar rules have seen substantial decreases in plastic bag use. Boulder implemented a similar plan in 2013 and has reported a 68 percent decline. In Breckenridge, plastic bag usage has reportedly dropped 40 - 50 percent.

Susie Gordon, Senior Environmental Planner with the city of Fort Collins, says the ordinance is similar to Boulder’s, except that Fort Collins won’t collect any of the disposable bag money.

"Instead of sharing the revenue from the sale of these disposable bags with the grocers, we’re proposing the grocery stores keep all the money," Gordon says. "We would then require them to spend half of that money to buy durable bags that they would then distribute to their customers, sort of at their discretion."

That could include stores giving away branded reusable bags as customer loyalty rewards.

Supporters of the ban say plastic bags create a litter problem that may pose a threat to wildlife and ecosystems. Fort Collins estimates that more than 52 million disposable bags are used each year – many of which end up in landfills.

But opponents say the bags are easily reused for things like lining trash cans or picking up animal waste. Additionally, they argue the charge would drive up food costs for low-income residents.

Gordon notes the fee doesn’t apply to customers on food assistance programs.

The city council initially approved the ordinance July 1. A second reading was postponed until Aug. 19 to allow for more community input. City code requires two readings before ordinances become law.

If adopted, the new rule would go into effect Jan. 2, 2015.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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