Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Senate Kills Plastic Bag Ban

The Senate rejected Tuesday a proposal to forbid large retailers from making plastic bags available to their customers.

The bill, which was the brainchild of a group of students at the Kent Denver School, died by bipartisan hands.

Sponsoring Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said a ban is needed because the large stores affected by SB 156 distribute more than 540 million plastic bags every year. That represents about 70 percent of the plastic bags distributed to consumers every year in Colorado.

Veiga reminded fellow senators that plastic bags cause significant environmental damage.

About 100 million tons of garbage, about 90 percent of which is composed of plastic bags, floats in an area of the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that every square mile of the ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic.

Scientists say that nurdles, which are the building blocks of plastic, attract dangerous chemicals that are eaten by marine life and move up the food chain to humans.

But opponents at the capitol argued that the state has no business dictating customer choice of bags and that shoppers would likely choose a more environmentally destructive alternative if plastic bags were not available.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said that the legislature should not interfere if customers like plastic bags, while Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, argued that paper bags would likely be used in place of plastic bags and the production of paper bags require 91 percent more energy than plastic bags.

Mitchell also ridiculed Veiga's comments indicating that other countries, including China, have banned plastic bags, arguing that China likely did not seriously discuss the pros and cons of such a proposal.

"There is an irony in citing a country like China for policy," Mitchell said. "What else has China banned? They've banned organized religious gatherings, they've banned having more than one child, they've banned political debate and speech, so it was probably pretty easy to pass their bans."

The bill would have required large retailers to phase out plastic bags within three years.

SB 156 lost on a voice vote.