Plastic bag bans: Mountain towns vow to "help change lifestyles"

In the classic 1967 drama The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman's character is offered one word, just one word of advice from an avuncular businessman: plastics. "There's a great future in plastics," the man whispers. But that future is pretty much past in the Roaring Fork Valley -- which, town by town, is seeking to rid its citizens of a nonbiodegradable environmental menace.

Earlier this week, Carbondale's board of trustees voted five to one to ban the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. Aspen passed a similar measure two weeks ago. Both ordinances also impose a twenty-cent fee for every paper bag the stores provide to customers. According to this account in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, some local officials wanted to go even further and ban paper bags, too. Trustee Frosty Merriott declared, "This is one thing we can do to help change lifestyles."

Last year Telluride became the first municipality in the state to ban plastic bags and impose a fee on paper ones. Basalt considered a fee for plastic earlier this year but is now expected to adopt its own outright ban. Expect the domino effect to spread as far as Glenwood Springs in coming months.

Some citizens protested the move, saying they reuse their plastic bags or recyle them at the grocery stores. But environmental activists have pushed for such bans, saying the hefty surcharge on paper could prompt more locals to remember to bring their hemp-lined totes on future shopping trips.

Could the war on plastic spread to Denver and beyond? Statewide efforts to ban plastic have failed miserably, and many feel-green measures passed in our more eco-correct resort areas never make it to the big city. But it seems clear that plastic isn't the future -- not in any place Dustin Hoffman might go skiing, anyway.

More from our News archive: "Colorado youth lead a march on Capitol for climate change."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast