2021 is the year for Colorado to act on single-use plastic pollution

Nothing we use once, should pollute our community and our planet for centuries. The Colorado Legislature needs to act and pass the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act this year.

Single use plastics - Staff photo

We can’t wait to tackle our plastic pollution problem. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Coloradans went through an estimated 4.6 million single-use plastic bags and 1.2 million polystyrene cups per day. 1 

Plastic bags and polystyrene cups and to-go containers are some of the worst forms of single-use plastic. 

A plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes and 50 percent of the bags we used in previous years ended up in landfills. Just walk around our neighborhoods, creeks, and parks and you can see a whole lot more are polluting our communities and open spaces. 

Single-use plastic bag – Staff photo


One component in polystyrene foam, which most of us call Styrofoam, is styrene and it was labeled a probable carcinogenic by the World Health Organization in 2018. This is particularly concerning because many people eat hot food off these containers or heat food up in them, creating opportunities for harmful toxins to leach into the food. 

Plastics are made from fossil fuels and are difficult to recycle. Many of these single-use plastics break apart easily, but it takes hundreds of years to fully degrade, polluting our planet for hundreds of years to come. 

It’s time to eliminate the worst of the worst plastic pollution from our communities and our state.


Action at the Colorado Capitol in 2021

Late this month, a comprehensive plastic pollution reduction bill will be introduced in the Colorado Legislature.

The bill, sponsored by State Representatives Alex Valdez and Lisa Cutter, and State Senator Julie Gonzales, will set clear deadlines for restaurants and retailers to phase-out single use plastics like polystyrene to-go containers and plastic bags. 

Youth Plastic Pollution Lobby Day 2020 – photos by Beaton Photography


It will also give local governments more authority to regulate additional plastic waste locally. Currently, Colorado local governments are restricted by a state statute that preempts them from protecting their communities – it bans them from enacting policy that reduces local plastic pollution. 

With a flood of plastic pollution inundating Colorado, it does not make sense to limit cities and counties ability to protect their communities. 

The support for action is broad. Many large businesses have either phased out or are in the process of phasing out single-use plastics including Colorado economic powerhouse Vail Resorts

Across Colorado, nearly 200 businesses and business groups like Good Business Colorado have joined us in calling for action. They know there are other options. Single-use plastic bags and polystyrene to-go food containers are unnecessary.  

In addition, young people have been leading the charge to reduce plastic pollution. In 2020, 200 youth came to the Colorado Capitol to lobby for bills that would reduce single-use plastics. CoPIRG has also partnered with Environment Colorado and the Story of Stuff Project to release a new video raising up the voice of youth.

Colorado youth call for action – a Story of Stuff Project with CoPIRG and Environment Colorado


Tens of thousands of Coloradans have also joined our call. In 2019, CoPIRG staff went door-to-door to generate support for state action to reduce plastic pollution, generating thousands of petitions.  

About a dozen states and hundreds of cities have already banned single-use plastics and more are poised to take action this year.

Every year we wait, tens of millions more single-use plastic items are made and flood our state. We need to reduce this harmful form of pollution and move beyond plastics. 

2021 is the year for Colorado legislators to heed the call of tens of thousands of Coloradans and pass the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act – literally, future generations, hundreds of years in the future, are counting on us. 
1. Per capita bag usage in the U.S. is estimated at 305.62 bags per person per year. This number was multiplied by Colorado’s population of 5.6 million. Per capita polystyrene cup usage in the U.S. is estimated at 82 cups per person per year. This number was multiplied by Colorado’s population of 5.6 million. 


Danny Katz

Executive Director, CoPIRG

Danny has been the director of CoPIRG for over a decade. Danny co-authored a groundbreaking report on the state’s transit, walking and biking needs and is a co-author of the annual “State of Recycling” report. He also helped write a 2016 Denver initiative to create a public matching campaign finance program and led the early effort to eliminate predatory payday loans in Colorado. Danny serves on the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Efficiency and Accountability Committee, CDOT's Transit and Rail Advisory Committee, RTD's Reimagine Advisory Committee, the Denver Moves Everyone Think Tank, and the I-70 Collaborative Effort. Danny lobbies federal, state and local elected officials on transportation electrification, multimodal transportation, zero waste, consumer protection and public health issues. He appears frequently in local media outlets and is active in a number of coalitions. He resides in Denver with his family, where he enjoys biking and skiing, the neighborhood food scene and raising chickens.

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