Colorado House advances historic plastic pollution reduction bill

Media Contacts
Hannah Collazo

A Colorado bill to phase out plastic bags and polystyrene containers passed Colorado House of Representatives

Environment Colorado

DENVER- The most comprehensive plastic pollution reduction bill (HB21-1162) Colorado has seen passed the state House Wednesday morning and is now headed to the Senate. The bill brings Colorado one step closer to protecting our state from plastic pollution threatening  our wildlife, water and climate. Representative Lisa Cutter (HD-25), Representative Alex Valdez (HD-5), Senator Julie Gonzales (SD-34), and President Leroy Garcia (SD-3) are the prime sponsors of the bill. 

“Protecting our climate, health, water and air are all good reasons to phase out unnecessary and harmful plastics. Reducing plastic waste will also be great for  public land stewardship and conservation. Coloradans value our beautiful wildplaces and using something for five minutes when it will pollute our planet for hundreds of years is antithetical to stewardship and conservation,” said Hannah Collazo, state director of Environment Colorado.

The bill will phase out the use of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, in food and retail establishments. This harmful plastic is carcinogenic and is virtually impossible to recycle. Restaurants have plenty of less harmful alternatives for food containers. A study conducted by Public Policy Polling found that almost 60 percent of all Colorado voters supported a restriction on foam and more than 70 percent supported a similar restriction on Styrofoam.

Rep. Lisa Cutter of House District 25 said: “I am thrilled at the passage of this groundbreaking legislation to reduce plastic waste. The pandemic has illuminated many problems in our society and we must learn from this experience and do things differently as we move forward. With this bill, we are doing two things at once: protect our environment from plastic pollution, and support our small businesses.”

Years in the making, this bill  has had strong input from the business community and rural and urban communities across the state. It also has a massive amount of grassroots support. Over 21,000 Coloradans from across the state and over 200 small businesses have signed a petition supporting the passage of a comprehensive plastic pollution reduction bill. 

Good Business Colorado, and our industry coalition Resilient Restaurants, has supported the bill through the House and anticipate its passage in the Senate. 

“We need to use this opportunity to address the currently unsustainable use of disposable plastics, particularly expanded polystyrene takeout packaging and single use plastic bags. This legislation is not a burden to restaurants if you realize the health, economic and community benefits that result from investing in affordable packaging that is significantly less harmful,” said Robert Bogatin of Good Business Colorado. 

Jenny McClellan, owner of Colorado Boy Pizzeria & Brewery and member of Resilient Restaurants, said:”We have been using eco-friendly to-go packaging for years and we’re proud to be a plastic-free restaurant in Montrose, Colo. The cost is a little higher but worth it for our environment. If we have to offer a bag, we use a simple brown paper bag. This bill is a step in the right direction for Colorado and Resilient Restaurants provides a great resource to make the transition.” 

If passed into law, the bill would restrict grocery stores from using plastic bags. It puts a fee on paper bags to prevent a surge in the use and to incentivize people to start using reusable bags. Sixty percent of the fee will go to the municipalities and 40 percent will go to the retailer. Municipalities will be encouraged to use the new revenue to help small businesses make the transition. 

“The Colorado House has made a major step forward today in our efforts to address the plastic pollution crises by passing this important legislation. Legislators know we must act now to reduce the impacts of single use plastics on our health and environment and that we cannot recycle our way out of the problem.” said Randy Moorman, the director of Legislative and Community Campaigns for Eco-Cycle. 

The bill passed the House on 3rd reading with a 40-23-2 vote and heads to the Senate.