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Volunteers aim to ban single-use plastic bags in Durango

Other Colorado cities have approved similar measures
Durango Beyond Plastic, a volunteer group, is campaigning to ban single-use plastic bags in town. City Council would have to approve such a measure.

A new volunteer group says banning single-use plastic bags in Durango would reduce local waste that contributes to a massive global plastic pollution problem.

The group plans to lobby Durango City Council this month and present ideas for a formal ordinance banning single-use plastic bags this spring in the city.

“So far, we feel like those recommendations would be welcomed,” said Kathleen Adams, a volunteer with Durango Beyond Plastic.

The group estimates nearly 100,000 single-use plastic bags leave the city’s stores everyday. Microplastic waste, in particular, is concerning because it finds its way into the air, water, animals and food, said Sarah Burris, a group representative.

“We are ingesting a ton of plastic that we can’t see. … It’s appalling,” she said.

If Durango banned single-use plastic bags, it would join 13 Colorado towns, a handful of states and numerous countries that have taken similar steps to reduce plastic bag waste, she said.

City Market plans to phase out plastic bags in 2025, according to its parent company, The Kroeger Co.

“The movement is worldwide and certainly very alive in Colorado presently,” Burris said.

In 2013, City Council approved a 10 cent fee on plastic bags distributed by the largest grocery stores. The measure was repealed by residents, with 56% of voters in favor and 44% opposed, according to The Durango Herald archives.

Ellen Stein, a volunteer with the 2013 Bag It campaign, said some of the opposition to the ordinance was rooted in the fee, not limiting plastic waste.

“People were more comfortable with eliminating the availability of plastic bags, and they didn’t want money involved, and they wanted the chance to have a bag if they wanted it,” she said of lessons learned during the campaign.

However, over the past six years, more people have considered the impact plastic waste has on air, water and wildlife, Burris said.

“I personally feel a lot of support for this movement from most everyone I encounter,” she said. “As we tote our reusable bags, it would be a tangible constant reminder of our need to move beyond a culture of convenience and waste.”

Part of Burris’ efforts to eliminate single-use plastic bags includes making bags out of old T-shirts and distributing them at north City Market. Through that work, she learned north City Market distributes 15,000 bags a day and extrapolated that figure to estimate the total distribution in all of Durango is 100,000 bags a day, Burris previously told the Herald.

With help from volunteers, Burris has distributed about 3,000 reusable grocery bags, she said.

This weekend, she plans to expand distribution to south City Market, she said.

Interest in reviving a local plastic bag ban was sparked by the T-shirt bags over the summer, she said.

The group is working on a final proposal to take to City Council, but it prefers a ban on plastic bags and a fee on each distributed paper bag, she said. However, the group does not expect to present ideas to the council until spring.

A plastic bag ban in Aspen resulted in 85% of shoppers carrying out items by hand or in reusable bags at local grocery stores.

Other cities in Colorado with bag measures include Ridgway, Nederland, Carbondale and Steamboat Springs.

Burris acknowledged the ban would require a change of habit, but she hopes residents will be open to change.

“We can do this not only for the planet, but for the oceans, for the wildlife and future generations,” she said.

Durango Beyond Plastic volunteers plan to address City Council at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at City Hall, 949 East Second Ave., about a potential ban.

Anyone interested in the campaign or helping make reusable bags can email durangobeyondplastic@gmail.com.

mshinn@ durangoherald.com

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