Telluride Town Council is moving forward with creating new legislation that will eliminate single-use plastics, specifically in the food and beverage businesses in town. At its regular meeting Tuesday, council gave town staff direction to prepare the ordinance for the first of two required readings in November.

Jonathan Greenspan, Kiersten Stephens, Kathy Green and Michael Mowery of the Ecology Commission, joined by local environmental activist, Joanna Kanow, pitched the idea to a receptive council.  

Like the plastic bag ban, which became law in 2010, the new ordinance aims to reduce the amount of plastic waste that travels from town and into landfills, where it can take centuries to fully disintegrate. 

Additionally, Stephens told council, “Straws and other debris go down the drain and end up at the wastewater treatment plant, and then gets in the sludge.” The sludge, she explained, is picked up and taken out of town and is spread on fields where the toxins in plastic garbage can leak into the soils and have an adverse effect on wildlife and domesticated animals.

“This is an effort to take responsibility for our waste stream,” Kanow said.

Municipalities making efforts to reduce plastic waste is nothing new, but Greenspan noted that, “We’d be the first community in Colorado to do this.” 

He added that their group is working with Mountain Village officials to enact a nearly identical ordinance in that town.

Restaurants surveyed by the Ecology Commission, Greenspan said, were generally supportive, and many have already converted to paper straws. 

“We’re trying to create a culture change,” he said. 

Suppliers, too, he said, are aware of the direction Telluride and Mountain Village are heading and are ready to accommodate local bars and restaurants.

It was noted by Kanow and others that when the plastic bag ban initially went into effect, there was resistance from both retailers and consumers. 

“Now, everybody brings their own bags,” she said.

Included in the new law, in addition to plastic straws, will be to-go containers, plastic drink stirrers and plastic-wrapped toothpicks. The law will extend to Telluride’s festivals, but will not apply to emergency health services, or to those who are disabled and need a plastic straw to consume fluids.

Telluride Tourism Board President Michael Martelon was on hand for the discussion and voiced his agreement that the law suited the Telluride ethos. 

“It speaks to the community and it speaks to the brand,” he said.

For those who prefer to sip their sodas or margaritas from a straw, a collapsible, metal straw is an option, Greenspan said. He demonstrated his own, which snapped smartly into a long tube, and when broken down is stored in a small, pocket- or purse-sized case.

In other Town Council business, the council could not vote on or discuss the fire ban issue, citing the need for a super-majority to vote on the matter. Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown, Tom Watkinson, DeLanie Young and Geneva Shaunette made for a quorum, but without Lars Carlson, Mayor Sean Murphy and Jessie Rae Arguelles-McConnell, they could not alter the fire ban. 

Town Attorney Kevin Geiger explained why. 

“An emergency ordinance under the Town’s Home Rule Charter requires five affirmative votes,” he said. “That number is not decreased if we have an absence. So, with only four they could not reach five affirmative votes. “

The emergency fire ban ordinance passed in June will remain in place until at least five council members are present.

Council also made appointments to the Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events board to fill open seats. Amy Seiving reapplied to the Health and Human Services post as the Wilkinson Public Library representative, and Kathrine Warren, Sheridan Arts Foundation’s PR and marketing director, was appointed to a regular seat. Both seats are for two-year terms.

Town Council’s next regular meeting is Sept. 4 in Rebekah Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.