Reopening without increasing unnecessary single-use waste

This week, a coalition of zero waste advocates sent a letter to Governor Polis outlining our recommendations for reopening restaurants and retail stores without unnecessarily increasing the use of single-use products. As the letter states – “It’s a false choice to have to choose between reducing unnecessary waste and protecting our residents and employees from COVID-19.”

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Danny Katz
State Director

Author: Danny Katz

State Director

(303) 573-7474 ext. 303

Started on staff: 2001
B.A., University of Virginia

Danny directs the operations of CoPIRG and is a leading voice in Denver and across the state to improve transit, stop identity theft, increase consumer protections, and get big money out of our elections. Danny has spearheaded efforts to electrify Colorado’s transportation systems, and co-authored a groundbreaking report on the state’s transit, walking and biking needs over the next 25 years. Danny also serves on the Colorado Department of Transportation's Efficiency and Accountability Committee and Transit and Rail Advisory Committee, and is a founding member of the Financial Equity Coalition, a collection of public, private, and nonprofit organizations committed to bringing financial security to communities throughout Colorado. He resides in Denver with his family, where he enjoys biking and skiing, the neighborhood food scene and raising chickens.

This week, a coalition of zero waste advocates sent a letter to Governor Polis outlining our recommendations for reopening restaurants, food establishments and retail stores without unnecessarily increasing the use of single-use products. 

As the letter states – “It’s a false choice to have to choose between reducing unnecessary waste and protecting our residents and employees from COVID-19.”

In response to COVID-19, the plastics industry has been hard at work convincing decision makers and the public that disposable plastic bags and other products are safer and healthier, ignoring the huge public health costs of producing a product from fossil fuels that takes centuries to break down if it ever does.

We recognize that protecting health means both reducing the impact of COVID-19 but also reducing the long-term health impacts of the pollution that comes from the production and use of single-use plastics. 

Thanks to our partners Eco-Cycle, Colorado Sierra Club, Conservation Colorado, Environment Colorado, Inland Ocean Coalition, and CASE (Citizens Alliance for a Sustainable Englewood) for joining us on this letter to the Governor. 

Letter to Governor Polis - Reopening Recommendations and Reusables

Dear Governor Jared Polis,

As you move forward with plans to reopen different businesses in Colorado, we offer you a set of recommendations so we keep Coloradans safe while also avoiding any unnecessary single-use plastics that become a problematic source of waste and litter. We recognize that protecting health means both reducing the impact of COVID-19 but also reducing the long-term health impacts of the pollution that comes from the production and use of single-use plastics. 

Restaurants and other businesses that serve food and drink in Colorado: As these businesses open, the state should allow the use of reusable utensils, foodware, stemware, breadbaskets, etc. provided they adhere to the proper washing, rinsing, and sanitation that are currently required.

In addition, reusable condiment jars and bottles should also be allowed, provided that they are sanitized between customers. One way to minimize unnecessary contact between customers and these items, as well as reduce the amount of sanitation required by the restaurant, is to provide condiment bottles only upon a request. 

Reusable menus should also be allowed provided they are sanitized after every use. One way to reduce unnecessary interactions is for food establishments to use a whiteboard or chalkboard for a menu or to offer digital menus. Take-out only service has made many Coloradans accustomed to ordering food digitally. Paper disposable menus should be of last resort.  

Retail stores that use bags: the state should not limit the use of reusable bags nor should it limit the use of fees on disposable bags that municipalities have in place. There is no evidence that reusable bags contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and no evidence that single-use bags are a safer alternative. Grocery stores and retail establishments have employed a variety of strategies to limit unnecessary contact between customers and employees including requiring reusable bags remain in a cart or basket and items be placed into the bag there. 

It’s a false choice to have to choose between reducing unnecessary waste and protecting our residents and employees from COVID-19. We can reduce the use of unnecessary single-use plastic without undermining COVID-19 safety precautions. This is critical as we look to not only recover from this pandemic and return to normal but to recover and return to a better normal - one that does not rely on the use of single-use plastics that carry food for a few minutes but then take centuries to break down. These single-use plastics are nearly impossible to recycle, require oil extraction and toxic industrial processes in their production that are harmful to communities and ecosystems, threaten our wildlife, undermine our health, and pollute our communities.

Sincerely,

CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group)

Eco-Cycle 

Colorado Sierra Club

Conservation Colorado

Environment Colorado

Inland Ocean Coalition

CASE (Citizens Alliance for a Sustainable Englewood)

Danny Katz
State Director

Author: Danny Katz

State Director

(303) 573-7474 ext. 303

Started on staff: 2001
B.A., University of Virginia

Danny directs the operations of CoPIRG and is a leading voice in Denver and across the state to improve transit, stop identity theft, increase consumer protections, and get big money out of our elections. Danny has spearheaded efforts to electrify Colorado’s transportation systems, and co-authored a groundbreaking report on the state’s transit, walking and biking needs over the next 25 years. Danny also serves on the Colorado Department of Transportation's Efficiency and Accountability Committee and Transit and Rail Advisory Committee, and is a founding member of the Financial Equity Coalition, a collection of public, private, and nonprofit organizations committed to bringing financial security to communities throughout Colorado. He resides in Denver with his family, where he enjoys biking and skiing, the neighborhood food scene and raising chickens.