Only mandatory programs reduce bag usage

I am writing in support of a plastic-bag ordinance and encourage the City Council to make haste in adopting a 10-cent fee for bags at grocery stores (70 percent of the problem of 7.2 million bags a year disposed of in Durango).

The resident-initiated petition that was brought to the council two years ago included 1,000 signatures calling for a plastic-bag ban. A snapshot in time, collected over several weeks, there are likely many more thousands of residents (and tourists who value visiting communities that invest in their environment) in support of an outright ban.

To those against, including the Herald, please consider: The current proposal is a completely reasonable compromise position affecting a handful of businesses. No one is taking away anyone’s right to a plastic or paper bag. They will continue to be available for a small fee. Bring your own bag – no fee, no issue. The fee makes good business sense in that the affected businesses no longer will have to spend thousands of dollars a year in providing free bags. We pay for everything else we leave the store with – why not bags, too? And in Durango, residents already pay $3 per month for the recycling program whether you participate or not.

It is proved that voluntary efforts – resulting in a 20 percent reduction in bag use and already tried locally with a 5 cent BYOBag credit so few took advantage of that the grocer canceled the program – are far less effective than programs requiring mandatory participation that have resulted in an 80 to 90 percent reduction in bag use in the first year.

The proposed bag ordinance is a policy consistent with Durango’s strategic vision adopted in 2007: “Durango is an authentic and diverse community living in harmony with its natural environment, pursuing economic, environmental and social sustainability.” The current councilors, all of whom align themselves with a strong sense of environmental stewardship, should be left to the business of governing and pass this ordinance. Consistent with the city’s sustainability program brand, doing so would be the right thing.

Ellen Stein


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