Local businesses that use only paper or fabric bags and organizations supportive of their policy provide fertile ground for an overall interdiction of plastic bags under study by the city of Durango.
Were working with a group on the issue, Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc said Tuesday. We should have a report to the City Council at the end of the summer.
The city took on the study at the urging of an informal group of residents who have been researching the banning of plastic bags in the city. They identify their campaign as Durango Bag It. Many local health-food stores have already stopped using plastic bags.
The town of Telluride has not seen merchandise bagged in plastic since March, when its plastic-bag ordinance took effect. The only exceptions were a few businesses that are being allowed to exhaust their stock of plastic bags.
There was a lot of fervor pro and con before councilors approved the ordinance last fall, Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton said Tuesday. Theres some grumbling, but there are no big headaches, and I think most residents are favorable to the ordinance.
Farther afield, San Francisco; Los Angeles; Mexico City; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Oyster Bay, Australia, have ordinances on the books banning plastic shopping bags.
The San Francisco ordinance, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2012, also prohibits the free distribution of recycled paper bags.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that from 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are distributed annually worldwide.
The bags threaten the environment by entangling aquatic animals and marine birds or being swallowed by them. They clog pipes and drains and choke landfills, requiring years to biodegrade.
Health-food stores in Durango have led the charge toward non-plastic containers.
We opened bagless here in Durango in March 2009, Alyssa Murray, general manager of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, said Tuesday. The remainder of the chain 48 stores mostly in Colorado went bagless on Earth Day the same year.
We have plastic bags only in the produce department, Murray said. Otherwise, we have empty freight boxes for customers.
Natures Oasis got rid of plastic bags four years ago, General Manager Lou Steele said Tuesday.
Customers who bring their own bags or dont ask for one get a wooden nickel to donate to a charity of their choice, Steele said. At the end of the month, the store donates the equivalent amount collected to the charity.
Health-food shoppers adopted this (nonplastic bag) ethic a long time ago, Steele said. Our policy raises consumer awareness and raises money.
Ginger Anderson, customer service manager at Durango Natural Foods, said the store phased out plastic bags in May 2008.
We have some used plastic bags that customers bring in, but otherwise we use paper, Anderson said. We charge 5 cents for a small paper bag and 10 cents for a large one.
By far, the majority of customers arrive with their own containers, Anderson said. They even bring containers for bulk goods such as shampoo, lotions, grains and seeds, she said.
The Walmart Supercenter in Durango, as the largest local dispenser of plastic bags, would be greatly affected by any plastic-bag ordinance the city might pass.
Walmart General Manager Bob Adamson said he needs authorization from corporate to discuss the matter. A call by The Durango Herald to the Walmart corporate public relations office didnt receive a timely response.
Erich Bussian, a board member of the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado, was among those who pitched the idea of a plastic-bag ban to city councilors last week.
The alliance, which started promoting a plastic-bag ban last year, has joined forces with Durango Bag It to give more impetus to the campaign, Bussian said.
Ive been pushing for a plastic-bag ban for a while, Bussian said. Its a waste of oil, and then theres the ubiquitous litter.
Zahra Lightway, an educational consultant who also spoke to city councilors last week, said a ban on plastic bags should go beyond grocery stores.
The community supports the idea of a ban, Lightway said. Its a question of getting it done.
It makes sense that a ban apply to all stores, Lightway said.
Lightway posed questions about plastic bags to 85 people at the recent Four Corners Green Living Expo. She said 40 would ban plastic bags and 36 suggested stores charge a fee for paper bags.
Lightway said her group wants to bring back the documentary film Bag It that was shown at the recent film festival in Durango and later at Miller Middle School.
The documentary about the impact of plastic on waterways, wildlife and human health has won prizes at a number of film festivals.