Fort Collins Voters Pass Landmark Plastic Bag Ordinance to Fight Plastic Pollution

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Ordinance Passes with 58.98% of the Vote

Fort Collins voters elected to join 16 other Colorado communities and 450 US cities in regulating plastic disposable carryout bags. On April 6, Fort Collins voters passed Ordinance 26–a phase-out of single-use plastic bags at large grocery stores beginning May 22, 2021. 

“I am thrilled that Fort Collins voters chose to do the right thing for our city and our environment to reduce plastic waste in our community,” said Councilmember Julie Pignataro. “This is a small  step that will have a huge impact on the overall health of our neighborhoods.” 

Proponents believe the new measure will significantly impact plastic pollution. The City of Fort Collins estimates the community uses almost 52 million disposable bags each year. National studies indicate that only 10% of plastic bags get recycled. The rest are either landfilled or enter our environment, which poses a threat to wildlife and human health. Plastic never goes away; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces getting into the air, water, food, and our bodies.

Other cities implementing similar policy measures have found an 80% decline in the use of plastic and paper bag use, a 200% increase in customers using reusable bags, and as much as a 90% reduction in plastic bag litter. 

“I have advocated for a decrease in plastic use my entire life, particularly after becoming aware of the damage fossil fuels cause to our environment. Oil, gas, and coal are the fossil-fuel building blocks of plastics, which we know now are not just a climate issue. It’s a human health issue. As we move into a new era of clean, renewable energy, I am so pleased to be a part of a collection of first communities that have voted to move away from plastic bags; to healthy alternatives that will benefit our community and the world,” said Kelly Giddens, one of the lead organizers on the campaign, Vote Yes on 26. 

Proponents of Ordinance 26 also believe its passage is a step in the right direction to fighting climate change.

“The production of plastics generates greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change,  resulting in devastating events we’ve recently witnessed here in Fort Collins. The smoke from the first and second-largest fires in our state’s history, the Cameron Peak and the East Troublesome  Fires engulfed our cities during the 2020 wildfire season. This is a great example of Fort Collins taking the lead on a critical 21st-century problem,” said John Parks, a member of the Fort Collins Chapter of the Climate Reality Project. “I am proud to live and work in Fort Collins.” 

At the capitol, HB21-1162, the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, sponsored by Jefferson County Representative Lisa Cutter (D), Denver Representative Alex Valdez (D), and Denver Senator Julie Gonzalez (D), is making its way through the legislative process. The bill will ban polystyrene food take-out containers and cups and plastic single-use carryout bags, starting in September 2022 throughout the state.

“Fort Collins residents have joined the residents of Boulder, Denver, and many other  Colorado cities sending a clear message to the state legislature. It is time to act now. People cannot ignore the plastic pollution problem and its resulting climate impact, and we cannot wait for each city to act. The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act will set a standard across the state,” said Randy Moorman, Director of Legislative and Community Campaigns at Eco-Cycle, one of the organizations supporting Ordinance 26 and HB21-1162. 


For more information about The Climate Reality Project: Northern Colorado Chapter go to climaterealityproject.org.

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