Santa Fe, NM, Retailers Prepare for Ban on Plastic Bags

SANTA FE -- Santa Fe's plastic-bag ban is still a few months away, but city officials are getting the ball rolling on ways to prepare the City Different for the looming change.

A campaign tentatively dubbed "Bag to Differ" will likely begin in earnest after Christmas.

The Santa Fe City Council approved an ordinance in late August that bans stores from providing most single-use plastic bags to their customers and requiring a fee of at least 10 cents for a typical paper bag. The law goes into effect Feb. 27.

Santa Fe officials have hired a local firm, HK Advertising, to help create the "Bag to Differ" logo, marketing materials and an outreach strategy. The firm has a $10,000 contract.

While details haven't been finalized, the city's strategy will likely include standard marketing such as letters, news releases, print and radio advertisements, and promotional items such as bumper stickers, said Fabian Trujillo, director of the Economic Development Division.

An online presence, either through the city of Santa Fe's website or a newly designed website, is also expected.

Plans also call for creating colorful posters for retailers, including parking-lot signs, reminding people to use (or go back to their car for) reusable bags, and graphics outlining the new rules. The idea is that if customers are confused or have questions, cashiers and other workers can point out the posters, said Nick Schiavo, the city's Public Utilities director. Schiavo worked closely on the ordinance in his former job as Santa Fe's Housing and Economic Development director.

"If you're checking people out, you don't want to have to go through the nuances of this," Schiavo said.

The city has already begun distributing thousands of reusable bags and there are plans to produce more bags with the new logo. City staff have previously said the city may give away about 10,000 reusable bags, at a cost to the city of about 90 cents per bag.

A working group of members of the city's mostly citizen Business and Quality of Life Committee -- the group that initially helped push forward the ordinance -- is working on mapping out the outreach. Strategies will be discussed and perhaps finalized at the group's next meeting, Trujillo said.

Potential partners include the Santa Fe Public Schools.

In passing its ordinance, Santa Fe has joined cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., which have all recently implemented various types of bag bans and restrictions.

Santa Fe's law will still allow some smaller plastic bags, such as those used for produce. Thicker plastic bags, like those sometimes offered by some retail stores, are also allowed. Restaurants and businesses that sell take-out food and nonprofits can also continue to provide plastic bags to customers. Dry cleaners also can still put plastic bags over the clothing they return to customers after cleaning.

Small paper bags like those for nails at hardware stores will still be allowed without a fee.

Customers on government assistance, such as food stamps, will not be subject to the 10-cent paper-bag charge.

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Copyright 2013 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

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