Telluride town council tells grocers that plastic bags aren't the future: Paper, damn it!

The town of Telluride is just weeks away from becoming the first municipality in the state to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and other retailers -- a move that keeps the mountain town in the vanguard of high-country green gestures, right up there with Aspen's designation of free parking for electric cars.

A final vote on the new ordinance comes October 5 -- just a month after California voters rejected a statewide ban on plastic bags.

Telluride's law would exclude reusable bags, and bags for meat and bulk items. It would also require the two major grocers in town to collect a ten-cent fee on paper bags, which have to contain at least 40 percent recycled content -- a condition that won't be imposed on other retailers.

Environmental activists regard the bags as a landfill nuisance and a danger to wildlife. The bag industry has maintained that figures of marine deaths from bags have been greatly exaggerated. San Francisco has had tight restrictions on plastic bags for years, and countries ranging from Ireland to China have imposed their own bans, citing the enormous use of petroleum in manufacturing the bags. Chinese officials estimate the country may have trimmed carbon dioxide emissions by almost 10 million tons in the first year of its ban, implemented in 2008.

Will Telluride's action inspire the rest of Colorado to follow suit? In tough economic times, it's not likely that many convenience-minded communities will suddenly decide to declare that plastic isn't their bag, baby. But the new ordinance should give folks who live in one of the state's premier bubbles of privilege one more reason, if more are needed, to feel good about themselves.