Dozens of residents cheered and waved reusable grocery bags Tuesday at Durango City Hall in support of a ban on plastic bags, a policy that lost traction in 2013 when voters overturned a 10-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags at local grocers.
People filled every seat and standing area in the Smith Chambers at City Council’s regular meeting, a rare sight. Many stood in the lobby and some were forced to wait outside. The crowd’s size was so much that Mayor Melissa Youssef joked that the number of people could surpass capacity standards for fire safety.
“This is amazing,” she said. “I’ve never seen it like this.”
Kathleen Adams, who has lived 11 years in Durango, said organizers brought petitions with more than 1,200 signatures asking City Council to ban single-use bags at grocery stores. She recognized councilors’ packed agenda and suggested they might consider an ordinance banning single-use bags in the spring.
But five Animas High School students asked councilors to take quick action.
“We want to see a difference, in particular, in how Durango is using plastic,” said Maddy Glotfelty, a freshman. “All change starts at a small point, if that’s plastic bags, we should take that to heart and go with it.”
The Durango City Council passed an ordinance in August 2013 by a vote of 4-1 that would have charged shoppers 10 cents for each disposable bag taken from a grocery store. Voters petitioned City Council and challenged the ordinance, which councilors put to a vote in November of that year.
Voters repealed the ordinance before it was to take effect, with 56% voting to reverse the fee and 44% voting to keep it in place.
But a renewed movement to ban plastic bags took shape Tuesday in Durango, and Animas High School students said the need to implement such a policy is more drastic than ever. Advocacy to address a warming world and studies showing the pervasiveness of plastics worldwide heightened awareness of how everyday activities contribute to a changing climate, students said.
Bans on plastic bags have become more commonplace in the past six years, with a number of states and cities across the United States enacting measures to reduce single-use grocery bags. Grocery bags made of old T-shirts are available at both City Markets in Durango – a grassroots attempt to keep single-use bags out of landfills.
“We can’t blame anybody for what’s happening,” said freshman Roan Harvey, “but we can make a difference.”