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How will city of Durango use single-use bag fees?

Officials have no plans to collect more than the 10 cents per bag being required by state of Colorado
Durango City Council members agree they don’t intend to collect any more than the 10 cents per bag being imposed by the state of Colorado in 2023. (Durango Herald file)

Durango City Council agreed this week if any local ordinance is passed in response to the state-imposed single-use paper and plastic bag fee it should not include higher or additional fees beyond what the state is requiring.

Councilor Kim Baxter said on Tuesday the state law mandating single-use plastic and paper bag fees starting Jan. 1 – and the all-out ban of single-use plastic bags and plastic foam carryout containers scheduled for 2024 – is “wreaking havoc” on communities across the state.

Mayor Barbara Noseworthy said the carbon footprint of plastic bags “is not pretty” and Councilor Olivier Bosmans said he views the push toward reusable bags as a good thing and something other Western countries have already adopted.

Councilor Jessika Buell said she supports a streamlined process for the city to identify businesses that are required to collect the 10-cent bag fees – mainly large corporate grocery and convenience store retailers – that includes community outreach to people and families in need of reusable bags.

Buell’s comments touch on concerns from city staff and City Council members about people with low incomes being disproportionately affected by the state-imposed bag fees.

For most consumers, avoiding bags is easy: Get a reusable bag, Marty Pool, sustainability manager for the city of Durango, said on Tuesday. But he noted the financial impact from 10-cent fees adding up will be harder felt by low-income people.

He said the city has 1,000 to 5,000 reusable bags left over from past sustainability efforts that it can provide to people and families most in need. Whatever costs are incurred from supplying people in need with reusable bags can likely be covered with single-use bag fees collected by the city next year.

That isn’t to say the city expects a relatively significant stream of income from the state-imposed fees that will go into effect in 2023. Pool said he anticipates the total revenue generated by the fees to be between $5,000 and $10,000 per impacted store, per year. Keeping in mind that the city is entitled to 60% of every individual 10-cent bag fee (while businesses keep the other 40%), Pool expects the city will receive just $3,000 to $6,000 per large store.

Including all stores within city limits that will likely be required to collect single-use bag fees, the city could receive anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per year, he said.

Another caveat is that a portion of the fees will be in effect for only one year. While single-use paper bag fees will be the new norm in Colorado for the foreseeable future, single-use plastic bags are going away in 2024, and with them the 10-cent bag fee.

Pool said in an interview last week he plans for a slight one- to two-year bump in revenues before the cash tapers off. And he made clear that city revenue from fees are to be put toward sustainability efforts such as recycling and the provision of reusable bags to people who need them.

“We’re not planning on this to be a reliable, significant funding source for any types of ongoing recycling programs,” he said. “We will turn around and use this funding specifically to support the spirit of the program overall. So the city will be buying reusable bags, distributing reusable bags, particularly considering equity and customers that the fee is a relatively higher burden. ... So really getting reusable bags to those customers first.”

He said the revenue from the fees are “pretty minimal” compared to overall annual revenues and expenses attached to city trash and recycling programs.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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