Climate Action Collaborative: Colorado Law Tackles Plastic Pollution

Plastics take up space in our local landfills, they break down into microplastics which add to the toxic runoff from these landfills (this is retained in ponds), and they are a major source of litter in our watersheds. and our ecosystems.
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Once upon a time (a time that really wasn’t that far away), human beings were limited by what existed in the natural world. But, someone somewhere did a little experiment, a little mixture of certain substances and chemicals, and they probably shouted “eureka!” when they realized they had created a new synthetic material.

Suddenly, humans were no longer dependent on a dwindling supply of natural resources. We could endlessly imitate natural products without having to deplete these resources. We could create new products that are lighter, cheaper, stronger and even more hygienic. We had started a revolution that led to a new modern era. Yet, having catapulted human progress, it has become one of our most insidious pollution problems.

Plastics. They are certainly tricky, forcing us to morally grapple with hardware necessary for things like modern medicine and computers, but also hardware that is incredibly harmful to our natural environment and to us. A good start to tackling this problem is to weed out what we don’t need, and recent Colorado legislation helps us do just that.



Enter the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2021, or HB21-1162: landmark plastic reduction legislation signed into law by Governor Jared Polis last July. The law is essentially four-pronged, targeting single-use plastics with a phase-out approach. Here is the breakdown:

Starting January 2023, a $0.10 fee will be imposed on plastic and paper take-out bags. The fees are split so that $0.04 stays with the retailer, giving them funding to implement the program, while $0.06 goes to municipalities and counties to help enforce the law and put in place waste diversion programs or education efforts. This tax will mainly affect large grocery stores and retail stores. For now, restaurants and retailers in Colorado with three or fewer locations do not need to comply.



On January 1, 2024, we begin to say goodbye to plastic. This is when the fee structure ends and the take-out plastic bag ban begins. Again, this will primarily impact large grocery stores and retail stores. However, all restaurants and schools still have a role to play. Also from 2024, polystyrene (Styrofoam) food containers and cups (essentially take-out food packaging) will be banned.

The final key piece of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act is the repeal of a 1993 plastic preemption law that denied local governments in Colorado the ability to ban plastic materials for consumer products. The 2021 law removes this preemption, allowing local governments to not only enact, but also implement and enforce laws that restrict plastic and/or polystyrene materials. This will begin on July 1, 2024.

The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2021 will not be a major shock to our communities, as Vail and Avon have already implemented a $0.10 fee and a plastic bag ban. For communities that have yet to begin phasing out plastics, remember that the purpose of this law is not to place an unnecessary burden on businesses, but rather to push actions to reduce use. plastics that may not have happened through behavioral change. efforts alone.

The problem of plastic pollution is not only a blight on the ocean, but also affects us here in Eagle County. Plastics take up space in our local landfills, they break down into microplastics which add to the toxic runoff from these landfills (this is retained in ponds), and they are a major source of litter in our watersheds. and our ecosystems. Another whole column could also be written about the impact of plastics on human health. So while it’s important to recognize the role that plastics play in today’s society, it’s also important to recognize the harm caused.

With the law coming into effect, it’s the perfect opportunity for all of us to get out our reusable bags and start thinking a little more about where our waste goes once we’ve curbside it. of street. Think of it from the perspective of overconsumption, stewardship, conservation, or even health. And if you have questions about what to do with your waste, check out our recycling and waste diversion resources at walkingmountains.org/sustainability-hub/recycling-and-waste-diversion/.

Bryce K. Locke