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Estes Park Joins The 2009 CAST Reuseable Bag Challenge

Lead by the League of Women Voters, The Town of Estes Park will be participating in the 2009 Colorado Association of Ski Towns (CAST) Reusable Bag Challenge. The goal is to raise awareness regarding the environmental and social costs of single-use plastic shopping bags and to promote the use of reusable shopping bags through a friendly competition between members of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. The Challenge will run from March 1st through September 1st, 2009, and the winner will be determined by which community tallies the most uses of reusable bags on a per capita basis. CAST estimates that participating communities across Colorado could reduce the consumption of close to 7,000,000 single-use plastic bags during the Challenge.

Any commercial store that gives away single-use plastic HDPE bags (standard plastic bags) can be included in the Challenge. It is hoped that the merchant encourages the use of reusable bags in their stores. You must also be able to somehow record reusable bag usage. Participating merchants will receive a point-of-purchase flyer to encourage and remind shoppers to use their reusable bags. Representatives will check in with participating stores throughout the Challenge to record reusable bag tallies.

So far in Estes Park Safeway, Country Market, and Local Roots Co-Op have agreed to participate, and we hope you will join us in this important endeavor! All together, at least 25 other mountain towns have agreed to be part of the challenge. Please let us know ASAP if you are willing to participate. To sign up or for more information, contact Irene Little at or Diane Burkepile at
History of the Challenge

In 2008 Sheep Mountain Alliance (SMA), The New Community Coalition (TNCC), the Town of Telluride, the Town of Mountain Village, the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), and the Town of Aspen partnered to participate in a trial voluntary Plastic Bag Reduction Challenge between Telluride, Mountain Village, and Aspen. The idea for the Challenge surfaced as a result of attempting to raise awareness of the social and environmental costs of plastic bags, to promote the use of reusable bags, and for our community to voluntarily reduce consumption of plastic shopping bags.

The Challenge ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day 2008. Collectively, the Challenge eliminated the use of an estimated 140,359 single-use shopping bags and raised $2,807.20 for renewable energy projects. In addition, over 30 news outlets statewide and five news outlets nation-wide covered this creative voluntary program.

Plastic carryout bags were first introduced by retail stores in the United States in 1975 and began to be distributed to customers at the point of sale in supermarkets in 1977. Today these bags are ubiquitous in the marketplace because they are lightweight, strong, inexpensive and convenient.

Currently, the United States uses 100 billion plastics bags per year at an estimated cost of 4 billion dollars and 12 million barrels of oil. Plastic bags are recyclable; however, very few are actually recycled. Research conducted by the County of Los Angeles in 2007 found that this is largely due to the logistics of sorting, high concentration rates that reduce the quality of the recycled resin produced, the low quality of plastic used in the bags, and the lack of cost efficiency due to lack of a suitable market for the recycled resin. Various estimates suggest that only 1% of plastic bags are being recycled.

Plastic bags never biodegrade; they photodegrade, meaning they simply break into smaller pieces of plastic. Remarkably, every plastic polymer ever created still exists today due to their inability to biodegrade.

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