The new state stock exchange law benefits the environment and our health

The new disposable bag tax and the phasing out of single-use plastic bags next year will help protect Colorado’s environment and public health by slowing the worsening plastic pollution crisis. Learning more about the single-use plastic bag problem underscores the importance of this proven policy solution. Some of the problems with single use plastics include:

These problems will only get worse if we continue on the path we’ve been on, but the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, signed last summer, addresses these problems by reducing how much single-use plastic is used in the first place.

We cannot recycle our way out of the problem

Only 9% of the plastic ever produced on earth has been recycled. The remaining plastic waste ends up in our oceans, waterways, parks and landfills. It is more complicated and expensive to recycle plastic than other materials, and most plastic products cannot be recycled. Plastic bags are absolutely not recyclable in curbside recycling programs; they are the most common contaminant in recycling plants, clog and damage machines and endanger workers.

When plastic bags are collected separately for recycling, they are recycled into other materials such as decking, which therefore cannot be recycled and must ultimately be landfilled. As long as we continue to produce plastic bags, we will continue to extract fossil fuels and pollute our environment.

Switching to “biodegradable” disposable bags is not a solution and only perpetuates our unsustainable resource extraction and disposal. The term “biodegradable” is an unofficial term used for marketing purposes; all plastic is ultimately “biodegradable,” meaning that over time with exposure to air, sunlight, and water, it will break down into smaller plastic pieces, contaminating our environment and entering our food streams . “Biodegradable” does NOT mean that plastic has been shown to decompose completely.

Even paper bags have a significant environmental impact; they use large amounts of water for production and require forests to be cleared if not made with 100% recycled content. The best alternative is reusable bags that can be used for years and years. Reusable bags are much stronger, can be insulated, and can hold more weight than disposable bags.

The solution to pollution

Fees and bans on single-use baggage have been enacted around the world and the data overwhelmingly demonstrates that this model of policy works. Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins saw an 85 percent reduction in paper and plastic bag usage after passing plastic bag bans and paper bag tariffs in 2019 and 2021, respectively. paper bags, customers in cities like Aspen bring their own reusable bags or skip single-use bags altogether.

In a large study of existing life cycle assessments, the United Nations recently concluded that all single-use products are the problem, regardless of their material. The study found that “more often than not, reusable products have a lower environmental impact than single-use products…the more times a product can be used, the lower that product’s environmental impact.” If the average American takes home 365 single-use plastic bags a year, each person could save 20,000 or more bags in their lifetime if they switched to reusable bags.

Thankfully, the Colorado Legislature and Governor Jared Polis have taken action to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic waste across the state. The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act created a statewide baggage fee and will completely eliminate single-use plastic bags in 2024. inventory.

There’s no point in continuously pumping out fossil fuels to be turned into plastic bags that are used for a few minutes only to end up in landfills, clog recycling systems or crumble into microscopic pollutions. The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, with its bag taxes and plastic bag ban, helps protect our beautiful state and the health of Coloradans and all those downstream from us.

Ryan Call, of Denver, is the campaign coordinator for Eco-Cycle.

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