September 18, 2013 Updated: September 18, 2013 at 8:05 am
The Denver City Council has moved a step closer to approving a fee for plastic and paper bags at grocery and convenience stores, narrowly giving initial approval to the 5-cent fee that would be charged at the register.
The final vote will be Sept. 30 after a public hearing.
Seven of the 13 council members voted Monday in favor of the bill that has been a source of controversy in City Hall. Susan Shepherd, Debbie Ortega, Paul Lopez, Judy Montero, Peggy Lehman, Robin Kniech and Chris Nevitt voted for the bill.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has expressed displeasure for the legislation, hinting he may veto the bill if it comes to his desk.
Hancock has said he fears the ordinance would negatively impact poorer people or seniors. He also worries people will choose to shop at stores outside Denver if the legislation goes into effect.
Ortega, who has worked for more than a year to craft the legislation, said the goal is to reduce the number of bags in the system that litter the environment, clog stormwater drains and become a hazard in waterways.
Ortega said her proposal is meant to change consumer behavior and get people to bring reusable bags to the grocery store.
She said reducing bags would save money that is spent cleaning up litter and getting bags out of the recycling machines.
"You don't have to pay 5 cents if you bring your own bags," she said. "We are not banning bags. We are choosing to give people a choice."
An estimated 130 million single-use bags are used every year in Denver. An estimated 150 cities throughout the country and in Colorado have enacted bag fees or outright bag bans, including Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Aspen and Boulder.
In Denver, revenue from the fee would be split between the city and the store, with the city retaining 3 cents of every bag sold to pay for education campaigns and to buy reusable bags. Stores would get 2 cents to implement the program.