Fraser voters will decide this November whether to place a tax on single-use plastic bags at local retailers.
The Fraser board unanimously approved placing such a question on the ballot during its Wednesday, July 16, meeting of the Fraser Board of Trustees.
A number of communities in the state have placed a fee on single-use plastic bags or have banned them outright, a trend aimed at encouraging people to use environmentally friendly reusable bags for their everyday purchases.
Telluride was the leader in the movement in Colorado and banned single-use plastic bags in the major retailers in the town and imposed a 10 cent fee on paper bags. Aspen, Boulder, and Carbondale have enacted similar regulations and Vail and Denver are currently looking at the issue. The movement to charge for single-use plastic bags in Fraser is being pushed by local group Infinite West, with the goal of educating the public on sustainable practices. The group formed a petition in support of the issue and circulated it for nearly two weeks. The petition garnered more than 140 signatures from citizens who support the issue.
The petition advocates a 10 cent fee be required for use of any disposable bag, paper or plastic, at all businesses within town limits, with the revenue from the fee going toward local schools, nonprofit organizations, community recycling programs, or local businesses.
The petition claims, “Approximately two billion disposable bags are used annually in Colorado, but less than 5 percent are recycled.”
“The issue we have is that the vast majority of people aren’t recycling those bags,” said Lindsey England, a teacher at Fraser Valley Elementary who spoke in support of the initiative at Wednesday’s meeting.
The town merely voted to place the question on the November ballot and is still undecided on exactly wording of the question.
The town is leaning toward language that asks voters to impose a tax on plastic bags, rather than a fee, to allow for the revenue to be used in a number of ways, rather than constraining the use of the revenue to one fund. It is also a cleaner way to adopt something of this nature and allows it to be presented to the voters, according to Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin.
The belief is imposing a tax on single-use plastic bags would provide incentive for people to use reusable bags, however the Fraser trustees want to see if this is something the town’s public and businesses would want and support.
“If you want to do this, we need to talk to the local businesses about it,” Durbin said to board members during the meeting.
While the petition is drawing support from a number of citizens in the town as well as a few of the town’s trustees, concerns were voiced about the possible negative impacts of imposing a tax or fee on single-use plastic bags.
“I don’t know if this is the solution to the problem,” said Fraser Trustee Phillip Naill. “Are we driving business away from Fraser because we are imposing this?”
Trustee Steve Sumrall pointed out that business opportunities lie in the recycling of disposable bags and wondered how such a tax would be imposed and collected.
How people use plastic bags after they receive them from the store was also discussed.
“Whether it gets one use or 50 uses, it is still affecting our environment in a negative way,” England said.
“I love single-use plastic bags,” said Trustee Cheri Sanders. “But I am willing to pay the 25 cents, or whatever it may be, to have them.”
Trustee Eileen Waldow, who works at the Safeway in Fraser, commented she has asked customers who have forgotten their reusable bags in the car if they would be willing to go get the bags if there was a charge for disposable bags. She said customers reply “yes.”
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334