BY MICHAEL ELLIS
It goes without question that plastic pollution is by far one of the most pressing environmental threats of our time. We have grown accustomed to seeking convenience over conservation and the devastating effects have caught up with us.
It is with this in mind that the City and County of Denver is launching the Bring Your Own Bag program on July 1 in an effort to reduce waste and encourage more sustainable practices. The program encourages shoppers to switch to reusable bags to avoid a mandatory fee of 10 cents for each disposable bag provided at retail stores in Denver. The Fee on Disposable Bags was passed unanimously by Denver City Council in December 2019.
“Denverites really value our natural areas and reducing the use of disposable bags will result in a cleaner, healthier environment everyone can enjoy,” said Grace Rink, Executive Director of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency. “Bringing our own bags when we shop is one small action anyone can do to support a sustainable Denver.”
Denver residents use more than 100 million disposable bags every year, but fewer than 5% are recycled. Plastic bags cannot be collected through residential recycling, and many are found littering the community, which threatens wildlife and blocks storm drains along the Platte River and other waterways. And while paper bags are perceived as a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic, they require an abundance of water and energy to produce and are not durable enough to be used more than a handful of times.
Disposable bags provided at checkout, self-checkout, curbside pickup and delivery by retail outlets selling personal consumer goods or household items, liquor stores, retail chain stores and groceries are all subject to the 10 cent per bag fee. To avoid the fee and protect our city’s environment, shoppers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags wherever they shop.
“City Council unanimously approved the Bring Your Own Bag program because we see this as an opportunity for city leaders, retailers and residents to take a significant step toward preserving our environment,” said Kendra Black, District 4 Councilwoman. “A similar bag fee in Boulder resulted in a 70% reduction in the usage of disposable bags.”
Fee exemptions include:
· Newspaper bags; bags that are 7×9 inches and smaller; bags provided by pharmacists; and bags used in stores, such as produce bags or bags to wrap meat or fish, are not subject to the fee.
· Restaurants, temporary vendors such as farmer’s markets, or other businesses where retail sales are not the primary activity are also exempt.
The fee will not be charged to shoppers who:
· Participate in a federal or state food assistance program
· Bring their own bags – which may include reusable bags or disposable bags they already have
· Do not request or require a bag
To help offset the cost of reusable bags, the city and its partners are providing free reusable bags to Denver residents while supplies last. Information about reusable bag giveaway events can be found at DenverGov.org/BringYourOwnBag under “How to Get a Reusable Bag.”
This is just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start. Join us in the fight against unnecessary waste! More information about the Bring Your Own Bag program, including resources for retailers and consumers, is available at DenverGov.org/BringYourOwnBag.
The Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency’s (CASR) mission is to act with urgency to proactively mitigate climate change. Our objectives are to advance science-based strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a scale and timeline that align with the recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cultivate resiliency in the face of potential climate change-related emergencies, secure an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable city for generations to come, and ensure that the setting of goals and metrics and monitoring of results considers equity.