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Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?

The debate about whether or not Denver shoppers should pay a fee for disposable plastic bags has been going on for well over a year.

But finally, a measure that would charge five cents per bag at many stores will be considered by the Denver City Council tonight -- and at this writing, the majority of members appear to support it. Look below for details, including the complete bill and a PowerPoint presentation created by one of its main backers.

Back in June 2012, our Sam Levin first got wind of a possible plastic bag ordinance in Denver while attending a Colorado Municipal League conference in Breckenridge. At one session, a Durango City Council member pressed Denver mayor Michael Hancock on the issue

Colorado Municipal League executive director Sam Mamet and Denver mayor Michael Hancock at a CML event in June 2012.
Colorado Municipal League executive director Sam Mamet and Denver mayor Michael Hancock at a CML event in June 2012.
Photo by Sam Levin

In response, Hancock said, "I've had a conversation with a member of the Denver City Council who wants...an ordinance to ban plastic bags.... One of the things he and I talked about is, of course, the alternative, so that it's not a regressive effort where people who are barely able to walk to the grocery store to eat have to now figure out how they pay for their bags as well. How do we do that? So he is considering it, looking at other towns, best practices.

"I just want to make sure we address those concerns," Hancock added.

Hancock apparently feels a fix for these potential problems remains elusive. As noted by 9News, the mayor opposes the bag-fee bill because he thinks it disproportionately effects poor and elderly people and could push some customers to do their shopping outside Denver city limits. He's threatened to veto the bill if it passes.

As for the arguments in favor of the bill, which is up for final consideration tonight, they're encapsulated in an August PowerPoint presentation by Councilwoman Debbie Ortega, among the main advocates on behalf of the concept. The measure calls for a five-cent-per-bag fee at stores larger than 1,500 square feet that get more than 2 percent of their revenue from sales of what are described as "staple foodstuffs or other perishable items." Of that nickel, two cents would stay with the stores to cover administrative costs and the like, while the other three pennies would go to "a program to mitigate the effects of trash associated with disposable bags (distribute reusable bags, conduct public education with retailers and the public, enforcement)."

The PowerPoint also lists plenty of cities nationally and in Colorado that have instituted a similar policy in regard to disposable bags.

Even if the council favors the measure at tonight's meeting -- and as shown by the recent reversal on an amendment about smoking marijuana on front porches, even items that seem like slam dunks can bounce off the rim -- payouts would still be a ways off. The bill's effective date is April 22, 2014 -- Earth Day.

Here are the key elements of the aforementioned PowerPoint, followed by the complete bill.

Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?

Continue for more about tonight's plastic bag-fee vote by Denver City Council, including more of Councilwoman Debbie Ortega's PowerPoint and the complete bill.  

Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?

Continue for more about tonight's plastic bag-fee vote by Denver City Council, including more of Councilwoman Debbie Ortega's PowerPoint and the complete bill.  

Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?

Continue for more about tonight's plastic bag-fee vote by Denver City Council, including more of Councilwoman Debbie Ortega's PowerPoint and the complete bill.  

Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?
Plastic bag-fee vote: Will Denverites soon pay an extra nickel per bag at bigger stores?

Denver City Council Disposable Bag Fees Bill

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Environment archive circa June 2012: "Plastic bags ban in Denver? Officials considering fees and more."


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