Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | There’s no such thing as ‘single-use’ plastic

Written by on June 10, 2021

I don’t know about you, but when I come home with “single-use plastic bags” from Walmart or (ideally) Target, they are never just “single-use” for me. It’s something I learned from my mom — and my siblings and friends are the same way.

I can sometimes get two or three uses out of a plastic bag. I’ll use one in my bathroom garbage bin. I’ll use one to toss out paper towels or Clorox wipes while cleaning the bathroom; then I’ll throw them into the dumpster, rather than filling up my kitchen trash. If I’m staying one or two nights at my parents’, I’ll throw some clothing items into a plastic bag and take it with me — no suitcase required.

And let’s be real: what about when you’re cleaning up human or animal vomit from the floor? Do legislators really want that to stink up our kitchen garbage bins? Isn’t it better to throw cloths and paper towels into plastic bags? What about dog owners who find it convenient to use plastic bags for dog poop, instead of spending additional money on the doggy bags when money is tight?

It’s also easier to carry a bunch of plastic bags out of King Soopers than it is paper bags. Get ready for more carts in parking lots as people have more need for carts going back to the car.

I can keep going with more and more examples of the convenience of plastic bags, but I think you get the point.

So imagine my sense of sheer stupefaction at how elite politicians at the General Assembly just voted to BAN plastic bags and send HB21-1162 on to Gov. Polis’s desk.

Here’s exactly what the nanny-staters just did with HB1162. From January 2023 to January 2024, a 10-cent fee will be placed on all plastic and paper bags statewide. Beginning January 2024, single-use bags will be banned at most stores. Those will include restaurants and companies with more than three locations such as grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores and retailers.

There are some exceptions beyond stores with three or fewer locations, such as pharmacies, dry cleaners, frozen food or plants that need to be protected from contamination. Also, beginning July 2024, local governments will get to make even tighter rules on plastic bags. The goal is to push people toward reusable bags, with paper as the preferred alternative. Forgive me, but I find this stunningly audacious of elected legislators telling the people what kind of bags to use at the store.

There are three big reasons why this Democrat-passed bill is a horrible idea and Polis must veto it.

First, the legislation disregards what average Coloradans usually do with plastic bags from the store. That is, we get multiple-use out of them. Are these people really that out of touch under the Golden Dome that they really think single-use plastic bags are only single-use for everyday people?

Next, the science shows that paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags. As NPR reported just two years ago, “Plastic haters, it’s time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment. They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery. While paper is biodegradable and avoids some of the problems of plastic, Taylor says, the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions.”

How about those wonderful, reusable cloth bags? NPR 2019 continues: “The Danish government recently did a study that took into account environmental impacts beyond simply greenhouse gas emissions, including water use, damage to ecosystems and air pollution. These factors make cloth bags even worse. They estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.”

Reacting to the 2019 NPR report, Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute crunched the numbers. “That’s once a week for 385 years.”

Also, as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’d wonder about the spread of disease from people who don’t wash their cloth bags enough.

Finally, by creating a $0.10-per-bag fee, our elected officials are putting in place a regressive tax that will hurt the poorest among us the most. They can get some of the greatest utility out of a single plastic bag.

On the whole, this legislative session was a disaster in almost every conceivable way. However, if Gov. Polis is smart, genuinely wants to protect the environment, doesn’t want to micromanage our lives and wants to relate to everyday people, he will veto HB21-1162.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s June 10 column at The Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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