Boulder and several other cities in Colorado have added a fee to plastic bags given to store customers, and now the Colorado Springs City Council is discussing the possibility.
During a day-long work session Monday, Councilwoman Yolanda Avila presented a proposal to charge customers ten cents per plastic bag.
"We've got to get them out of our environment," she said. "They're polluting our waterways, walkways and parks. The average person uses a plastic bag for 12 minutes before throwing it away. This is the Olympic City. We have to take better care of it."
Avila said with a 75% compliance for such an ordinance, the city could collect $1 million in annual revenue that would be used to increase the level of litter pickup and provide free reusable bags to customers.
Dee Cunningham, executive director of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, said her litter control team has collected nearly 12,000 plastic bags -- just from homeless camps and trails -- within the past year.
"We don't slow down no matter what," she told the council.
Avila said she hopes the council will vote to put the fee question to voters on the November ballot.
"I want to take advantage of this being a presidential election because that's when most people go to the polls," she said.
The council was generally supportive of the fee idea but expressed some concerns.
"I think it's more an issue of litter control than plastic bags," said Councilman Andy Pico. "I agree that getting plastic out of the environment is needed, but I'm not sure how many plastic bags are in the litter we have."
Councilman David Geislinger said he'd rather have the council and Mayor John Suthers decide the matter.
"That's what we were elected for," he said. "We also need to hear from the grocery stores, other retailers and the county health department because there's some thought that it's safer to use disposable bags during a pandemic."
Avila got enough council support Monday to continue discussing the matter at a work session next month.
Kroger, the parent company of King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado, announced in 2018 that it would phase out plastic bags by 2025. But the slow rate of change has led some stores to add their own fees, or reduce the amount of plastic bags used.