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Kerry Donovan’s new bill could spur Styrofoam ban in Avon

Current statute makes litigation from Dart Container Corporation more likely

Expanded polystyrene foam is used to make plates, coffee cups and food containers, among other things. The Avon Town Council has passed an ordinance to ban this material, contingent on statewide repeal of a law disallowing such action.
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State Sen. Kerry Donovan introduced a bill on Wednesday to repeal a Colorado law that says local governments shall not prohibit the use or sale of specific types of plastic materials.

In Avon, that means a ban on expanded polystyrene or Styrofoam — which was approved on first reading in November — could go forward as directed by the council.

Senate bill 20-010 is sponsored by Sens. Julie Gonzales and Tammy Story and state House Reps. Meg Froelich and Alex Valdez.

“I hope to find the political support to get it passed into law,” Donovan said, saying she supports the efforts of communities like Avon which want to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam products. In addition to Eagle County, Donovan represents Chaffee, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.

“Of course, the other approach would be statewide bans,” Donovan said, “but I think when it comes to some of these ideas, some communities are ready to move forward, some communities aren’t, some communities have a bit more affluent populations that can more easily adjust to some of these decisions, so I think this is the right pathway to allow communities to decide how they want to move forward when it comes to how they deal with materials in their communities and the environment.”

Roberts will support

Rep. Dylan Roberts, who lives in Avon and represents the community at the state Capitol, says he plans to support Donovan’s bill.

“I’m proud of my hometown of Avon for taking a lead on this and lobbying the state legislature to change the law,” said Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties as the elected official from State House District 26.

Roberts said he believes that materials that are better for the environment than expanded polystyrene have now reached a point where foodservice providers can use them without suffering exorbitant costs.

“That’s why I know that the Restaurant Association, which is a very big lobbying group in Colorado … is neutral if not supportive of a bill like this, because they know their members can make the switch in a fiscally reasonable way,” Roberts said.

What about bag bans?

Donovan’s bill begs a question among those who have been following the plastic-reducing efforts of towns across Colorado.

If the state currently prohibits towns from prohibiting the use or sale of plastic materials, then how did towns like Vail and Avon get away with their plastic bag bans?

Those towns leaned on their status as home-rule municipalities while playing the odds that no one would want to spend the time and money required to challenge the initiatives in court.

Avon town attorney Paul Wisor summarized the thinking at a meeting in September, sharing his take on corporate interest in Styrofoam versus single-use grocery bags.

“(Dart Container Corporation) is more organized, and more motivated about these containers than some amorphous organization that might care about the plastic bags,” Wisor said.

In 2015, Dart Container Corporation joined a group in New York City in filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the city’s ban on foam foodservice items. After a more than three year fight, the ban was upheld in 2018, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

The Avon Town Council is expected to review their expanded polystyrene ban on Jan. 28 in the Avon Town Hall, where it will hold a public hearing. After passing a first reading in November, the ordinance still requires majority approval of a second reading — along with the passage of Donovan’s bill — to go into effect.

“With plastic bag bans, that started in Colorado in the mountain towns — Aspen, Avon, Steamboat just did it — and now big cities like Denver are considering it,” Roberts said. “I think some of the best ideas come from everyday citizens, or from town councils, or from people across the state. Big change doesn’t have to start at the state capital, or in Washington, D.C., and often it doesn’t.”


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