Paonia trustees voted unanimously at the March 26 town board meeting to consider an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags. Trustees directed town attorney Bo Nerlin to draft the ordinance. An attorney with the Montrose law firm J. David Reed, P.C., Nerlin wrote the plastic bag ban ordinance for the Town of Ridgway that was adopted last December.
The vote followed a presentation by Paonia Experiential Leadership Academy students Ellie Feder, Matthew Delaney and Tyler Delbaugh, in support of the ban.
Students addressed the board on behalf of Sustainable North Fork Valley -- a group of Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss residents interested in eliminating single-use plastic bags. Each read a prepared statement explaining why they support the ban. They provided statistics on single-use plastic bags, the problems that discarded plastics are causing around the globe, and listed the benefits communities can realize in banning single-use plastics.
"People always say that small towns can't make a difference," said Matthew Delaney. "But even the smallest seeds grow the mightiest trees."
Local realtor Patti Kaech taught a class for a zero-waste program that students worked on this past winter. "Students decided that a good place to start is with a single-use bag ban," Kaech told trustees.
To replace plastic bags, they suggest "boomerang bags." Named for the Boomerang Bag movement started in New Zealand, the bags would be made from recycled cloth by students and community volunteers. Bags would not be sold for a profit. Because they can be used hundreds of times, they can be shared with friends and family, or as conversation starters.
To help ease the transition, they propose that the ban be phased in over a one-year period. Stores would also provide disposable paper bags for a small fee, and small bags for produce and other items like nuts and bolts would still be allowed under the ban.
The younger generation wasn't alone in supporting the ban. Resident, septuagenarian and former town trustee Sid Lewis also addressed the board. Referring to "Plastic Bag Reduction Policy Basics," a nine-page document adopted in 2016 by the city of Kirkland, Wash., Lewis explained in detail how the ban could be phased in. He also gave a long list of statistics supporting the ban.
"I think it's important that the town move forward with a ban for plastic bags," said Lewis. The effects on "all living things require that we all start walking the talk, with the intention of not changing the world, but realizing that it is just simply who we are and that we are all connected," said Lewis. "By 2050 it's projected that there will be more plastics in the water than there will be fish."
In addition to Ridgway, area towns including Crested Butte, Telluride and Carbondale have also adopted ordinances banning plastic bags.
Mayor Charles Stewart explained that the draft ordinance would require two readings before it could be formally adopted, "If the board wishes to adopt it." The board can also request a future effective date, "if it elects to do so," to give residents and businesses time to prepare for the ban.
The ordinance could come before the board as early as the April 9 meeting. Interested parties should check the agenda, which will be posted at Paonia Town Hall and online at www.townofpaonia.com, prior to the meeting.