Are You Good "To-Go" Plastic Free?
Updated: May 18
On March 28, 2023, the Breckenridge Town Council took a major step toward its material management goals with the passage of Ordinance 12-23 that phases out certain single-use plastics from food serviceware and beverage containers. This ordinance also aligns Breckenridge with new state regulations set forth in HB 21-1162, the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.
Material Management Goals
The SustainableBreck Plan (2022) has a material management goal to reduce materials going to the landfill by reducing waste at the source and increase the portion of waste that is diverted through recycling and composting.
Policy Strategy: Phase out certain single-use plastics by 2024.
Here's what the ordinance does. For definitions and specific language, please refer to the ordinance.
Skip the Stuff - May 4, 2023
Beginning May 4, retail food establishments and third party delivery platforms must offer all serviceware (forks, knives, spoons, napkins, straws, stirrers, etc) and condiments by request only - regardless of material type. Self-service stations are allowed.
Carryout Bag Fee - May 4, 2023
Breckenridge has had a disposable bag fee since 2013 and banned plastic bags in 2021. This ordinance increases the bag fee to 25 cents and requires paper bags to be made from 100% recycled content. Businesses can keep 40% of the fee revenue to pay for education, signage, POS system changes, and other administrative costs.
Town Facilities + Events - May 4, 2023
This year, single use plastic water bottles and food serviceware will be prohibited from Town facilities and permitted events. Event producer information in available through the Special Event Permit Application (SEPA) process.
Polystyrene + Styrofoam - January 1, 2024
To align with the State of Colorado's plastic pollution reduction act (HB 21-1162), this ordinance prohibits any food container or serviceware made from polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam.
Single Use Plastic Water Bottles - July 1, 2024
Breckenridge has quality drinking water available throughout town. With over 15 water refill stations and more on the way, drinking mountain fresh water is easy. In order to reduce unnecessary plastic waste, this ordinance prohibits the sale of single use plastic water bottles in all businesses beginning next year.
Single Use Plastic Food Serviceware and Containers - July 1, 2024
The second phase of "Skip the Stuff" is to eliminate plastic options entirely. Beginning July 1, 2024 serviceware offered by request only must be made from something other than plastic. Condiment packages and condiment containers are still allowed by request and are the only exemption.
Great. Happy to go plastic-free, but what can my business do?
We understand that changes can be difficult. But the ultimate goal is to drive a circular economy that minimizes the need for extraction of materials that simply end up in the landfill. Recycling is only part of the solution and is certainly not the silver bullet. Check out some ideas below listed in order of preference.
Reduce and Reuse
Life cycle report after report show that reusable food serviceware beats single use alternatives by every environmental measure (climate, water, exploitation, material waste, and littler). Not only that, but transitioning from single use to reusable food serviceware can save businesses significant amounts of money. First, start by shifting on-site dining to durable and reusable products. Then, consider take-out options that are available. A new service economy is emerging with significant opportunity to provide take-out and delivery services in reusable packaging. There are several companies operating in Colorado including Vessel, r.cup, Deliver Zero, Boomerang.
A business directory maintained by Upstream is a good source of ideas and future partnerships. NOTE: service areas are not all inclusive and market demand is driving expansion.
Allow Customers to Use Personal Cups and Containers
The travel coffee mug is the most recognizable form of personal container use. But increasingly, consumers bring their own cups, mugs, water bottles, containers, and serviceware with them. Accepting easily fillable, clean containers for personal to-go food and drink items is the easiest first step to eliminating single use waste.
Summit County Public Health is supportive of reducing single use waste and has confirmed this is acceptable provided that cleanliness and sanitation is maintained. For further questions, please contact Seth Danner with Summit County Public Health.
Consider a Carrot (or Stick)
Many businesses and communities offer discounts to customers who bring their own beverage cups. Likewise, businesses may seek to recover costs of food containers by charging a fee for use. Both are allowable and should be itemized on the customer's receipt.
The following information is from the Upstream Reuse Wins Report (2022)
Lending Library - A cafe or restaurant offers dishware provided by a third-party service to customers, who borrow it and then return it to a participating business. The costs are covered by the operator and customers must download an app providing credit card information. If the dishware isn't returned, the customer is charged.
Deposit Systems - Alternatively to lending libraries, a deposit system requires an upfront deposit which is refunded when the cup is returned. This builds on states that have bottle bills for recycling. This model is used across Europe.
Discounts - Remember when you got 10 cents off your coffee at Starbucks? This little used discount can be a huge driver of change if advertised and deployed widely. Promotion and customer education is key to this program's success.
Pivot to Fiber and Aluminum
Disposables are a last resort and aren't always necessary. The least harmful include products that are sourced sustainably, recovered from other materials, and are easily recycled in local programs. Not all disposables check all three boxes, so we strongly encourage durable containers and serviceware that can be rewashed in-house or rented through a third-party reuse program.
But if you must offer disposable containers and serviceware, we encourage certified fiber products and aluminum made from a minimum of 50% recycled content. A list of recommended vendors can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resource Guide: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Ensure Recycling and Composting Education is Available to Staff and Patrons
Recycling for all businesses will be required in 2024 under the Universal Recycling Ordinance. Signage and staff trainings are available to come into compliance. The Town has also created a grant program to help businesses in the transition to recycling. Grants up to $2,500 are available until funds are exhausted. Visit the PAYT/URO webpage for details and how to apply.