High-School Students Clear Hurdle for Plastic Bag Ban

  • Published on February 14th, 2009

plastic bag

A proposal in Colorado to ban the use of plastic bags in supermarkets passed its first legislative hurdle as the the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee voted 4-3 to back the measure.


Spearheaded by a group of high school students from Kent Denver School, Colorado Senate Bill 156 (pdf) is opposed by supermarkets and big box stores who argue that the added burden would put unnecessary.

If the bill passes, stores would have to begin using biodegradable bags made from paper (or other organic materials) and/or encourage their customers to bring their own bags.

The three Republicans on the committee, who all voted against the ban, argued it would increase the use of paper bags, which they said take more energy and water to make than plastic bags.

But the students from Kent Denver School, who were also on hand to testify at the hearing, were well-prepared as they swamped lawmakers with statistics about plastic bags throughout the hearing, telling lawmakers that 90 percent of all grocery bags are plastic and it takes 1,000 years for those bags to decompose in landfills.

“We have an environmental concern that far outweighs the minimal impact this bill will have on the industry,” said Kent Denver junior J.J. Shpall, who then cited the success of a the plastic bag ban in Ireland and how it has cut consumption of the bags by 90 percent.

In recent years, Colorado has been showing more signs of trending away from its conservative roots — and Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell is all too familiar with that trend.

“When you do run for office,” said Mitchell to one of the high school students, “would you please do it in some district other than mine?”

Image: CC Licensed by flickr user spratmackrel

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


  • Excellent article by Timothy B. Hurst about a proposal in Colorado to ban the use of plastic bags in supermarkets passed its first legislative hurdle. Thanks to tbhurst for sending this.

  • hey you guys, i really love this its so cool. We need more of this,you know. Its just trouble to us folks and our animals. The littering is so common in my small town.

  • I'll bet a dollar to a donut the smokers of this proposed bill discard their filtered cigarettes onto the ground when finished smoking. Gee, the butts will out last the landfill.

  • Yikes. We're letting students write legislation now. They simply aren't as well informed about the subject as you may think. Most likely, the facts and figures they presented were from websites run by companies selling reusable bags, who promote bag bans and taxes as part of their marketing strategy.

    The Ireland bag tax quoted did decrease plastic grocery bag use by 90%, but sales of packaged plastic bags went way up. One manufacturer over had increased production of 400%. People reuse grocery bags, and if they aren't available they purchase bags for those uses – trash can liners, pet pick up, etc.

    ALL science points to paper bags being far worse for the environment. Look it up.

    And landfills are designed to keep things for degrading. When things degrade they give off gasses and leach chemicals into the environment. Landfills are engineered to keep this from happening. Plastic bags are inert in landfills. How long something takes to degrade in that type of environment isn't really pertinent.

    The biggest problem with plastic bags is litter, which isn't solved by bans and taxes on what gets littered. Promoting recycling programs and proper disposal is the better cure for that problem.

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