DENVER -- More than 200 students from across the state called on Colorado legislators earlier this month to take action on single-use plastic pollution. The March 5th Youth Lobby Day was hosted by Environment Colorado, CoPIRG, Eco-Cycle and Inland Ocean Coalition.
From coast to coast, students are leading the charge to get state governments to take action on plastic pollution, and lawmakers are listening. Colorado is no different. In 2018, students from Steamboat Springs succeeded in proposing and passing a plastic bag ban and paper bag fee.
“We look up to our elders in the wrong image, we look at them and think that they are the best people. While they may be great, they have left us a burden, a burden [plastic pollution] that is now our responsibility to fix. Now is the time to fight,” said Zach Ruppel, a 7th grader from Louisville Middle School.
At the Youth Lobby Day, students brought letters, pictures and projects that expressed why plastic pollution is a threat to our health, climate, water and wildlife. They urged to support two bills that would reduce plastic pollution -- HB20-1162 and HB20-1163:
HB20-1162 Prohibit Food Establishments' Use Of Polystyrene, sponsored by Rep Lisa Cutter and Rep Jonathan Singer, would restrict food and retail establishments from using polystyrene, commonly known as foam. The bill gives these establishments two years to make the transition. Polystyrene is nearly impossible to recycle, breaks down easily, and is a known carcinogen. Rep. Cutter, prime sponsor of HB20-1162 said, “I deeply love my state, and I am thrilled to be part of this clear step to reduce plastic pollution in Colorado. Combating climate change and protecting the environment are fundamental to our Colorado way of life and I will always champion these issues.”
HB20-1163 Management Of Single-use Products, sponsored by Rep Emily Sirota and Alex Valdez, would prohibit stores and retail food establishments from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags and stirrers to customers. It would also only allow those establishments to provide plastic straws upon request and charge customers a 10 cent fee for paper bags. Rep. Sirota said “Single-use plastic pollution threatens human health, harms wildlife and ecosystems, and overflows our landfills, rivers and oceans. Our bills remove from Colorado the most harmful and prevalent of single-use products. We can’t recycle our way out of this problem; it’s time to stop the use of disposable plastic carryout bags, plastic straws, stirrers and polystyrene food containers.”
“Plastic pollution is growing at a precipitous rate and reducing the massive amount of plastic ending up in our landfills, waterways and food sources is a necessary step that is widely supported by Coloradans -- over 48,000 of them. We need to stop using single-use plastic products. We need to protect Colorado’s youth from such unnecessary, easy to replace, hard to recycle, and toxic items,” said Hannah Collazo, Environment Colorado director.
Both bills passed the House Energy and Environment committee with a 7-4 vote. HB20-1162 passed the Appropriations committee and HB20-1163 passed the House Finance committee. They both head to a floor vote once the Colorado General Assembly reconvenes on March 30th.