The regional conversation is far from over, however, as evidenced by the lengthy discussion Mountain Village Town Council undertook at its Thursday, Jan. 26 meeting, concerning the fate of single-use plastic bags in the community.
At that meeting, Telluride plastic bag ban advocate David Allen and Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser urged Mountain Village Town Council members to consider implementing a ban on single-use plastic bags in Mountain Village, in response to the single-use plastic bag ordinance that went into effect last March in Telluride. While councilmembers expressed support for finding “better outcomes” to the dilemma posed by packaging-waste in general, they stopped short of agreeing that following Telluride’s lead is appropriate.
“There’s no resistance here to opposition to the use of plastic….It’s about what’s the right vehicle for getting there, and we’re not all in agreement that what Telluride has done is the answer,” Mountain Village Mayor Bob Delves said, in summing up the town’s position.
Allen had urged council to consider drafting an ordinance similar to Telluride’s, to “bring some much-needed continuity between the two towns” on the plastic bag issue.
The idea, Allen continued, is to promote the use of reusable shopping bags while reducing the damaging waste stream connected to plastic bag use. Moreover, the ban serves to raise awareness about the issue.
“Really, what it’s all about is changing behaviors,” Allen said, “not just here but beyond Telluride as well. We want visitors to come here and see what our communities are doing and take that back with them.” Councilmembers Dave Schillaci, Richard Child and Delves all expressed reservations about creating an ordinance that would prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags, and make fees for paper bags mandatory in Mountain Village.
Schillaci said that the Telluride ordinance is really a tax, since it includes the mandatory charge for paper bags. In terms of contributing to global warming, he said, paper is a worse offender, since it takes significantly more energy to manufacture paper over plastic. “If we’re going to ban anything, we should ban paper,” he said.
Delves agreed that the mandatory fee issue was a sticky one, constitutionally, but said that the legality issue could be addressed by a vote. Citizens of Mountain Village can put a referendum on the ballot by collecting 5 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last election, which currently stands at around 450.
For Child, it came down to complying with an ordinance that was created for Telluride, not Mountain Village. “It’s appropriate for Telluride, but not appropriate for Mountain Village,” he said.
The Council was however split in its stance, with Cath Jett, Jonette Bronson and John Howe voicing support for Mountain Village to draft an ordinance similar to that of Telluride’s.
“We are regional community, and we ought to all be on the same boat on this,” Howe said.
As it stands now, the Mountain Village Market, the town’s only grocer, voluntarily uses biodegradable plastic bags, adding to the feeling that more research should be done before the community drafts any kind of ordinance related to plastic, paper or other bags used by the town’s retailers, councilmembers ultimately agreed.