Colorado Senate bags plastic ban |

Colorado Senate bags plastic ban

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Colorado shoppers will be able to keep using plastic bags.

The state Senate rejected a proposal Tuesday that would have banned the use of plastic bags by large retailers by 2012.

Lawmakers in four other states ” Hawaii, Missouri, New Jersey and New York ” are considering similar bans this year. Nine others are considering adding fees to plastic bags, ranging from 3 cents in Vermont to 25 cents in California, said Douglas Shinkle of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said no other states have passed such bans yet and thinks Colorado lawmakers were wary of being the first. She said many were also contacted by constituents who didn’t want to have to give up their bags.

The measure (Senate Bill 156) was opposed by supermarkets, big box stores and department stores. It wouldn’t have applied to smaller stores and franchise operations.

The bill was defeated after a handful of Democrats joined with Republicans in voting against it, but GOP senators led the charge. They argued that the ban would inevitably lead to increased use of paper bags, which take more energy to produce and take up more room in landfills than cheaper, lighter plastic bags.

Veiga countered that plastic bags pose a bigger problem because they’re used more widely, they’re made with petroleum products, and they aren’t recycled as much as paper.

She introduced the bill at the urging of high school students at Kent Denver School, who watched the debate from the gallery above the Senate floor.

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said their intentions were good but said banning plastic bags wouldn’t help the environment.

“Human nature says that people will go toward the most convenient product, and that is the paper bag,” said Harvey, who said his family uses canvas bags when shopping.

Veiga pointed out that San Francisco had passed a plastic bag ban, as had China, Rwanda and Bangladesh.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said Colorado shouldn’t follow the example of China, which also bans religious gatherings and having more than one child.

Three of the Kent students who lobbied lawmakers by phone and at the state Capitol remained upbeat after their defeat. They said they were glad the issue was debated for the public to see and that more people, including some of the bill’s opponents, use reusable bags.

“I think people are changing, but they’re not changing fast enough,” said Julia Wedgle, who was joined by Katie Imhoff and Krista D’Alessandro.

All three are sophomores and said they would be back next year to try again.

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