Colorado lawmakers have passed a ban on plastic bags and expanded polystyrene foam packaging while also killing an alternative bill favored by industry that would have put a fee on takeout containers of all materials to help fund recycling.
The state House voted June 8 to adopt the ban and send it to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to sign. Environmental groups said if signed it would make Colorado the first inland U.S. state to place a ban on single-use plastics.
In an added measure that drew industry opposition, the legislation would also overrule a state law that had prevented local governments from passing their own ordinances around plastics packaging.
Repealing the policy, called preemption, gives local governments the authority to enact their plastics laws that are stricter than the state's.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said it's the first time a state legislature has reversed municipal preemption, which has been politically controversial around the country.
The Plastics Industry Association was critical of the legislation, including removing the preemption law, which the association refers to as uniformity.
"It really does two things that are problematic. It bans plastics products, which obviously is not the right approach to sustainability," said Matt Seaholm, vice president of government affairs for the Washington-based group.
"It also repeals the state uniformity statute that was in place," he said. "They've opened it up to a patchwork of ordinances that could affect a lot of other products or the products that just got banned at the state level. It's disappointing but we're going to work with Colorado and hopefully fix it in the coming years."
Environmental groups praised the legislation, saying it would help reduce pollution. It passed in the waning days of the legislative session.
"Colorado has now passed one of the most comprehensive plastic pollution reduction bills in the country," said Danny Katz, executive director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. "As the first interior state to take this action, this builds momentum to phase out these kinds of unnecessary and wasteful single-use plastics across the country."
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said Colorado is the 10th state legislature to ban single-use plastic shopping bags and the eighth to ban EPS containers.
Colorado's bill also puts a 10-cent fee on paper bags and has a delayed phase-in period for the plastics bans.
The Denver Post said stores can charge 10 cents for plastic bags until 2024, when the ban kicks in.
The ban on takeaway food containers for EPS also does not take effect until 2024, but the new law allowing local governments to enact their own plastic rules starts in 2023. And the rules exempt Colorado-only restaurants with three or fewer locations.
Lawmakers also killed a related plan from the American Chemistry Council and others to put a three-tenths of a cent fee on foodservice ware, not just plastics, to fund recycling and composting.
That measure had been converted to a study bill in the Senate and the House on June 8 quashed it. A sponsor of that legislation, Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, told the Denver Business Journal she was disappointed it did not move forward.
"What interested me is I've seen a lot of the producers of plastic materials taking their own initiative to look at post-consumer products," said Titone. "So, the fact that the [American] Chemistry Council was looking to do something in good faith to work on their own product, I said, 'Hey, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.'"