Denver’s bring your own bag law likely delayed because single-use plastic and paper seems cleaner in the coronavirus era

Well, not for the environment, but you get the picture.

A plastic shopping bag is surrounded by a circle of liquid somewhere in Athmar Park. Dec. 3, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A plastic shopping bag is surrounded by a circle of liquid somewhere in Athmar Park. Dec. 3, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

The fees on plastic and paper bags shoppers were supposed to start paying July 1 will likely be delayed until Jan. 1, 2021.

The law’s sponsor, Denver City Councilwoman Kendra Black, told Denverite she plans to amend the measure, passed in December to incentivize bringing reusable shopping bags by charging shoppers 10 cents per tote.

The move aligns with what’s happening in other states like California and New Hampshire where governments have banned shoppers from using reusable totes in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“People feel like a brand new plastic bag is more sanitary,” Black said. “City staff and consumers have other priorities right now.”

Denver goes through about 200 million plastic and paper bags each year, officials estimate. Plastic bags, which consumers typically use once before throwing out, are the second most common piece of litter in the South Platte River and Cherry Creek behind cigarette butts. Officials say they clog Denver’s trash, recycling and sewer systems.

Plastic bags require natural gas and take a really long time to decompose. No one knows for sure because they’ve only existed for about 60 years, but some scientists estimate plastic bags “live” for another 500 to 1,000 years after your 10-minute trip from the grocery store is over.

There’s “no rush” on amending the law, said Black, who will need the majority of her colleagues to sign on and vote before making it official.

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