News briefs: Plastic bill, gun bills and COVID testing

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waste plastic bottles and other types of plastic waste at the Thilafushi waste disposal site.
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Colorado legislature passes plastic bill

Recognizing the toll plastic bags and Styrofoam take on the environment, the Colorado Senate and House recently passed a bill to ban the use of those items and allow local governments to impose their own, further restrictions on single-use plastic. The bill now awaits Gov. Jared Polis’ signature, and if he signs it, Colorado would have some of the strongest plastic reduction laws on the books in the country.

“We applaud the legislature’s passage of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act as an important step in addressing the growing threat that plastic production and pollution pose to our climate and the health of people, wildlife and the planet,” said Suzanne Jones, executive director of Eco-Cycle and former Boulder mayor, in a statement. “With this statewide ban of polystyrene [Styrofoam] take-out containers and single-use plastic bags, Colorado will become a national leader in tackling the plastic crisis.”

The bill is the result of years of input and support from communities and businesses across the state — over 21,000 residents and 200 businesses signed on to a petition to support the bill’s passage.

“Good Business Colorado and Resilient Restaurants have supported the bill from the beginning,” said Robert Bogatin, a representative of Good Business Colorado and director of Resilient Restaurants, in a statement. “We need to use this opportunity to address the currently unsustainable use of disposable plastics, particularly expanded polystyrene takeout packaging and single-use plastic bags. This legislation is not a burden to restaurants if you realize the health, economic and community benefits that result from investing in affordable packaging that is significantly less harmful.”  

Depending on the conditions, Styrofoam can take hundreds, thousands, even millions of years to break down. Plastic bags, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, require about 1,000 years to break down — and they don’t really completely degrade. Rather they turn into micro plastics that end up in waterways and soil, becoming environmental hazards.

Gun reform measures head to Polis

In the wake of the mass shooting in Boulder on March 22, state legislators introduced a package of gun reform bills which have now passed through both chambers and await Gov. Polis’ signature.

SB 21-256 allows cities and counties to enact regulations on firearms that go beyond state and federal laws — Boulder had enacted an assault weapons ban in 2018, which was struck down by a court 10 days before the King Soopers shooting because of the state preemption laws this bill would repeal. If signed, this bill would allow local jurisdictions to prohibit people from carrying firearms into public buildings and specific areas, if they so choose.

HB 21-1298 expands background checks to prohibit the transfer of guns for five years to people with violent misdemeanor convictions. The bill would also require the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) to complete a background check before guns are transferred, and lengthens the time the CBI has (to 60 days) to resolve any appeals as a result of the background check process.

HB 21-1299 would create the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will oversee public awareness campaigns, help foster research and award grants for violence intervention programs. There are likely federal funds available for such work and the creation of an office to handle such efforts could help secure that funding.

Additionally, a perviously introduced bill, HB 21-1225, also passed and would tighten the procedures for getting firearms out of the hands of domestic violence offenders.

For more info on the bills, see “The tide has turned,” News, May 13.

A sign that the COVID end is near?

Boulder County announced this week that it would ramp down COVID-19 testing sites. As vaccinations have gone up, the need for regular testing sites has gone down, the County says, adding that anyone who is symptomatic should still seek out testing.

Testing at the Boulder County Fairgrounds ended on June 9, and testing at the St. Vrain Valley Schools Innovation Center will cease on June 18. The testing at Stazio Ballfields in Boulder will run through the summer, until Sept. 30, and testing in shelters will continue on a month-to-month basis.

If there are outbreaks, County health officials have mobile teams that are ready to engage specific communities. And the County will continue coordination efforts with schools, summer camps and CU through the fall.

Only five new cases were reported on June 8 in Boulder County; the seven-day average was only eight cases.