Program Significantly Reduces Use of Plastic Bags in Mountain Village
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Shoppers visiting the Market in Mountain Village no longer expect to hear the familiar question, “Paper or plastic?” at checkout, but are being asked if they need a bag at all.
Pursuant to a resolution passed by Mountain Village Town Council in July 2012 establishing The Town of Mountain Village Disposable Plastic Bag Reduction Program, shoppers who bring their own bags will be rewarded with a 25 cent credit per bag, while those who need a bag will pay 25 cents for each bag the store provides.
The resolution went into effect in September 2012, and is part of the town’s greater initiative to reduce waste.
“The program started after we were approached by the Town of Telluride and David Allen to impose bag regulations in Mountain Village similar to those in Telluride. But it was our own town council that decided to make it a voluntary measure instead of a strict governmental mandate,” explained Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew. “I believe we are the only town in the nation that actually monitors the progress of this bag-reduction program, and keeps track of how many bags are kept from the waste stream on an annual basis. In 2009 we adopted a ‘zero waste or darn close’ goal. This is part of how we’re striving to meet that goal.”
According to the language in the resolution, the program is “a cooperative program between the Town of Mountain Village, the Grocery Stores, and the Retail Merchants. The Program supports the Town’s goal of Zero Waste and is a step toward a significant reduction of plastic bags in the town’s waste stream starting with the grocers and eventually including all merchants.”
The resolution sets out program requirements, allowing grocers and retail merchants to collect a fee for each bag provided to shoppers and including provisions for installing visible signage about the program; providing reusable bags for sale; supporting the Zero Waste Task Force in its development of a commercial composting facility for the community; and ensuring that both grocers and merchants “shall be recognized and celebrated publicly in Town communication vehicles for their voluntary participation.”
As part of the voluntary program, the Market ceased distributing petroleum-based plastic bags at checkout and switched to paper or plant-based compostable bags. The program was intended to reduce the amount of plastic waste, and to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags when they shop in Mountain Village.
While the resolution emphasizes that the nature of the bag program is voluntary, it spelled out a goal of achieving grocer-participation of 100 percent by Sept. 1, 2012, and 100 percent participation by other merchants by Sept. 1, 2013.
Mountain Village Mayor Dan Jansen summed up the program’s goals in a recent statement, saying, “The key issue for Mountain Village is that we believe we could go further by partnering with our leading merchant, rather than imposing a solution. And it worked out. We believe we have one of the more environmentally impactful programs out there. Not only did we eliminate plastic, but we were able to get compostable paper bags if [such] a bag is requested, which would have been hard to achieve by mandate.”
Jansen said he hopes to maintain a cooperative relationship with merchants: “We hope to extend this program to other merchants and will again look to partner and develop solutions together, versus by government mandate.”
In an interview, Drew emphasized the program’s focus on ‘voluntary’ versus ‘mandated.’ “Our program is unique because the 25 cent credit given for a reusable bags brought by shoppers makes it a real win-win and a unique initiative. The credit was entirely the grocery owner’s idea. All proceeds from the bag fees go toward greening the store.”
The numbers support the mayor’s assertion that the bag program has been a success. Since the program went into effect, the Market at Mountain Village has reduced the number of bags it distributes by 72 percent – or 129,900 fewer bags. The Plastic Bag Reduction Report states that customers were directly credited .25 cents for 37,398 bags brought to the store in 2013, which translates to over $9,000 of credited bag incentives.
“Our voluntary program in Mountain Village illustrates the power of public-private partnerships,” observed Jansen.
The program, Drew noted, “Was a success from the start, and grocery employees do not have any issues [with it]. People seem grateful to see Mountain Village address our waste and support our zero-waste goals.”
The Market sells large, souvenir-type canvas bags for those who don’t own a reusable one.