Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic
Colorado Springs, CO, December 23, 2022
Plastic and Paper Bag Fees
Beginning January 1, 2023 all Colorado businesses will be required to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for every single-use plastic or paper bag. This fee comes from House Bill 1162, which aims to reduce waste in the state of Colorado. The fee for a bag may be higher if a city or county wishes, some of which already implement such fees. By 2024, single-use plastic and paper bags, as well as Styrofoam take-out containers, will be banned throughout the state.
There are a few exceptions to the new law. Customers enrolled in federal or state food assistance programs won’t have to pay the bag fee as long as they can provide proof of their participation in such a program. Stores operating solely in Colorado with three or less locations are exempt from charging the bag fee. You can read the Colorado Sun article or more details on the new law. Keep reading for useful information to reduce your own consumption of single-use plastic in your everyday purchase habits.
Plastic Bags Alternatives
The best alternative to using single-use bags is to bring your own reusable bags to the store. Many retailers and grocers sell reusable bags in stores. Some stores, such as Natural Grocers, reuse cardboard boxes by offering them to customers in place of bags. Paper bags, even ones made from recycled paper, use more fossil fuel to manufacture than single-use plastic bags. They also weigh more when shipped, increasing shipping cost for the business as well as consuming more diesel fuel in transportation. These reasons are typically why paper bags are included in implementing bag fees. Not to mention, they tear easily and are ruined when they get wet making their reusability limited.
Other types of reusable bags include:
- Reusable plastic bags
- Compostable bags
- Cotton totes
- Woven and non-woven polypropylene (plastic fiber) bags
- Jute bags
These each have their pros and cons regarding lifetime use and environmental manufacturing costs. Read more about them here.
Water Bottles and Coffee Cups
Many of us buy bottled water at the store or gas station, and go through the drive-thru of our favorite coffee places. How many plastic coffee cups do you throw away in a week? Many of these coffee places sell reusable tumblers that, when used, reduce the amount of single-use plastic that gets thrown away from daily coffee consumption.
The best way to use your reusable tumbler is to go inside the café to order. The barista typically lines cups up as they are ordered for the fastest service. Even if you tell them you have your own cup at the drive-thru, often your order will be made in a disposable cup to keep the line moving and then poured into your cup when you hand them yours at the window. This defeats the purpose bringing your own coffee cup.
Buying and using a reusable water bottle helps keep single-use bottles out of landfills and oceans. However, it seems a difficult task to find a place to refill your bottle. Free apps, such as Tap and Refill, show where water bottles can be refilled in numerous cities—from public drinking fountains to restaurants who will fill up your bottle if you ask.
Besides single-use plastic bags, many grocery stores offer pre-packaged fruit, vegetables, and salads. They are definitely there for the convenience of having your fruit already cut up or your corn already shucked. However, you are not only paying for the food but also the plastic container. And those containers are typically thrown out when empty. Bringing reusable fruit and vegetable bags to pick out items from the bins not only saves plastic from ending up in the trash, but also saves you money. You can see the difference in price between four ears of packaged, shucked corn versus the price per pound of non-shucked corn from the vegetable cooler (an ear of corn weighs 1-1.5 lbs, by the way).
The biggest issue with reusable bags and containers is simply remembering to bring and use them. It takes a conscious effort to be fully conscious of our use of disposable plastics. Find ways to remember your reusable items, like leaving your bags in the car so they are always there when you need them. We can all make a difference and keep plastic out of landfills and oceans by simply remembering to remember.