Students debate plastic bags at Capitol
A bill prohibiting Colorado grocery stores and big box retailers from using plastic bags at checkout counters passed its first committee hearing at the state Capitol on Wednesday, after a group of high schoolers who proposed the bill went argument for argument with the Republicans on the committee who opposed it.
Who says lawmaking is only for grown ups?
A quartet of students from the Kent Denver School told members of the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee that the bill is needed to reduce the ubiquitous bags, which consume oil, fill landfills, clog streams, choke animals and generally clutter the planet, the students said.
“We have an environmental concern that far outweighs the minimal impact this bill will have on the industry,” Kent Denver junior J.
J. Shpall said in fluent legislatorese, before segueing into a discussion about a similar plastic bag ban in Ireland that he said timberland outlet reduced consumption of the bags by 90 percent.
The bill passed the committee on a 4 3 party line vote. Republicans on the committee opposed the bill as an unnecessary government intrusion that could backfire and cause more environmental harm. But when it came to challenging the students, they seemed vexed.
Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R Broomfield, peppered the bill’s legislative sponsor, Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D Denver, with critical questions before the students had a chance to speak.
Students came prepared
“We’re terrified of looking mean to high school students, so we want to ask you our questions,” Mitchell said.
Not that the school kids came unprepared. The four who spoke Wednesday are part of a group that formed at the school after hearing about the environmental toll of plastic bag use. to plan their campaign, and they so impressed Veiga that she decided to make their idea into a bill.
Senate Bill 156 would ban large stores from using plastic bags at checkout after July 1, 2012. Instead, the stores would have to either provide paper bags which the students said are more environment timberland outlet ally friendly because they can be more easily recycled and are more readily biodegradable or ask customers to bring in their own reusable bags.
Sen. Ted Harvey, R Highlands Ranch, questioned whether paper bags were really better, noting that they require more energy and water to produce and are at least as likely to clog landfills, where they won’t biodegrade because of the soil conditions.
“Just because you r timberland outlet educe plastic bags doesn’t mean everyone is going to go to canvas bags,” Harvey said. “And there are worse options out there than plastic bags.”
The students, though, had a rebuttal, saying that consumers are more likely to recycle paper bags and that there is a better market for recycled paper bags than for recycled plastic bags.
“Therefore it is impo timberland outlet rtant that we cut down on our plastic bag usage first,” said Kent Denver junior Laura Abelman.
Democrats on the committee praised the students for their hard work and commitment to the environment. And though Republicans were unswayed, they were not unshaken.
“When you do run for office,” Mitchell said to one student in a nervous joke, “would you please do it in some district other than mine?”An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. That comes out to nearly 1 million to 2 million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.