by Dalton Carver
Despite a recommendation from town staff on Dec. 12 to take a step back on the crusade to prohibit plastic bags in Ridgway, town council adopted the stricter form of a ban that goes a step further than many municipalities.
With an extended effective date of March 1 on the ban, business and community outreach is the next step.
The ordinance will ban all single-use plastic bags, including grocery bags; bags used by consumers inside stores to package bulk items and to contain frozen foods, flowers or bakery goods; and, bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription drugs.
At the last discussion around the plastic bag ban at a meeting in November, council expressed interest in adding more examples to the banned list, including plastic that packages bulk items or wraps flowers and that may contain frozen meat or fish. All of those are now part of the ban.
However, at the Dec. 12 council meeting, Town Manager Jen Coates and Town Attorney Bo Nerlin recommended adopting a previous iteration of the ordinance, which focused solely on the plastic bags typically given out by businesses to carry products out of the store.
“Frankly, the consensus based on Colorado law and throughout the community and discussion with businesses, it might be premature to undertake this single-use plastic ban,” said Nerlin, saying he understood the public’s passion on the topic. “My recommendation as legal counsel is we start here and continue to have an open dialogue.”
Nerlin presented the position that council and staff hadn’t conducted significant outreach to businesses in the community informing them of the potential impact the ban could have on their operations.
Initially, some council members weren’t sure which stance to take, but Robb Austin was not among them.
“I usually try to reserve a lot of judgment to staff, but it just seems like it’s being recommended we take a step backward,” said Austin, definitively stating his intent to support the stricter ban. “We seem to have this invisible opponent that may present a challenge, but there isn’t one out there yet. I have a hard time imagining what we’re so afraid of.”
John Clark, mayor, and Ninah Hunter, councilor, also leaned toward Austin’s perspective. Hunter said she disagreed with...