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State lawmakers advance bill banning certain single-use plastics

The bill would stop stores from using plastic bags and restaurants from using Styrofoam containers.

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers have advanced a bill (HB21-1162) to ban certain single-use plastics like plastic bags at grocery stores and Styrofoam containers commonly used for takeout orders at restaurants.

If signed into law, stores would be allowed to use plastic bags between Sept. 1, 2021 and Sept. 1, 2022, but customers would have to pay a fee of 10 cents per bag to use them. 

After Sep. 1, 2022, stores would only be allowed to use recycled paper carryout bags for a customer fee of 10 cents per bag.

The money from the bag fees would go towards recycling programs.

As stated in the bill, “A store is required to remit, on a quarterly basis beginning January 1, 2022, 60% of the carryout bag fee revenues to the municipality or county within which the store is located and may retain the remaining 40% of the carryout bag fee revenues. A municipality or county may use its portion of the carryout bag fee revenues to pay for its administrative and enforcement costs and any recycling, composting, or other waste diversion programs or related outreach or education activities.”

Stores using plastic bags and Styrofoam containers would be able to use up their inventory of those items.

Democratic Representative Alex Valdez is one of the sponsors of the bill and said plastic pollution is a crisis in our state and country and this bill is a step towards helping Colorado's environment.

“We really created what we believe is the best possible piece of legislation for the state of Colorado that addresses the main issue that we're trying to get at, and that is the reduction in the amount of these non-recyclable types of plastics that are finding themselves out there,” Valdez said.

He also raised concern about plastic pollution leading to microplastics that we end up consuming.

“There are real health effects here, we know that now and we need to address them and that’s what this bill is about,” Valdez said.

Democratic Representative Lisa Cutter also sponsors the bill and said that the issue is too big to fix it only by more recycling.

“We have to reduce first, that is the first and most important piece of reduce, reuse, recycle,” Cutter said. “We cannot recycle our way out of this problem. There is so much plastic and almost every piece of plastic ever manufactured is still in existence and no way recycling is ever going to catch up to that problem.”

One concern some have about the bill is the cost it will come at for business owners that it affects. Republican representative Colin Larson voted against it because he said it targets small restaurant owners who would struggle to pay for more sustainable and expensive products.

“In a year where restaurants have just been absolutely devastated because of COVID and everything else going on, to raise their costs of doing business by forcing them to use more expensive takeout materials, when I think there's more appropriate avenues to encourage recycling, it just really seem tone deaf,” Larson said.

Rep. Larson said before becoming a legislator, he owned and independent coffee shop and is familiar with the higher prices of more sustainable products.

“I think it may just be ignorance on behalf of some of the bill sponsors about what it costs restaurants when you're telling them to use a different material,” Larson said. “Especially something like takeout where you're talking about hundreds of these units, every day, it can really add up.”

Earlier this week the bill passed the state House and it will now head to the Senate.

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