Elections, Exclusives, Fort Collins, Local, Uncategorized

Hunt: The case for a ‘No’ on the Fort Collins bag ban

For zombie enthusiasts in Fort Collins, what a time it is to be alive! In pre-COVID 2019, the annual Zombie Fests in Old Town Fort Collins and nearby Denver were brimming with undead devotees, fun zombie lore had made its way into some local-school activities, and streaming content was hitting its stride, rife with zombie-related episodic and feature-film productions.

Perhaps Fort Collins City Council did not want to be on the outside of the good-time zombie crowd, and thus decided to reanimate the killed-four-times municipal plastic-bag ban, passing an ordinance referring the single-use ban to the municipal ballot for the upcoming April 6 Fort Collins election. Unlike previous ban attempts, this one only applies to large grocers and not smaller shops, and also includes a twelve-cent fee on paper bags.

The plastic-bag ban before Fort Collins voters is little more than virtue signaling by a council that craves the mantle position to claim it “did something.” Never mind that we know this ban will necessarily expand government, become an undue burden on citizens and taxpayers, and have no measurable effect on landfills.

The City of Fort Collins is budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars and two full-time employees to implement the program’s management and enforcement strategies. Citizens who recycle single-use plastic bags to line wastebaskets or clean-up pet waste instead must purchase plastic bags for these uses. What will be gained from such disruptions and sprawling government?

The EPA estimates that only 0.3 percent of landfill waste nationwide is single-use plastic bags. The Fort Collins City Council never said what the estimate is for landfills receiving Fort Collins’ waste, but many residents already use reusable grocery bags by choice.

Without knowing the baseline of the landfill’s single-use bag waste pre-ban, it is unclear how the City plans to evaluate the policy and implementation strategies. How will the City determine the amount of small plastic bags residents purchase online to replace their once-convenient grocery sacks? According to an NPR study, this number is significant, and these bags are not any better for landfills or air quality than the would-be banned bags. How many more paper sacks, which leach greater amounts of chemicals than plastic bags, will end up in our landfills?

It appears that for the Fort Collins City Council, whether their ban has any determinable impact on the landfills or on the greater environment, is immaterial.

Perhaps program evaluators in Fort Collins are already prepared to consider the ban a success because “doing something” perceived by others as helpful is the singular goal of the ban. Yet even this logic is nonsensical since pending legislation at the Colorado General Assembly is likely to pass, and be deployed with an earlier, more aggressive implementation timeline.

This ban will expand the reach and force of local government, cost businesses and residents time, money, and convenience, and have no measurable environmental impact. At least the proponents of this ban can congratulate each other on their sweeping success in “doing something.”

Sarah Hunt is a resident of Fort Collins

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