Op-Ed: Denver's New Bag Program Just Passes the Buck

Courtesy Erika Righter

Let’s talk about this new Denver bag “tax,” shall we?

As most people know, I am deeply committed to efforts that support positive impact for all members of our community, but when I see the effort disguised as impact, I do my homework.

1. Under the Bring Your Own Bag Program, my gift store is now required to collect 10 cents for a bag that a customer requests (even the recycled paper bags we already purchase; we have never had plastic bags).

2. The 6 cents we have to remit to the City do not go to any environmental efforts; that money simply goes back to administering the program.

3. We cannot keep the 4 cents as income, and must use it to buy reusable bags that we produce.

4. I just went to Walgreens and was given a plastic bag and was told by the cashier that they are adding the bags to the transaction, but it never actually charges people (so they don’t have to remit anything). And sure enough, my receipt showed a bag fee on the transaction, but a 0 dollar amount.

To me, this is an example of politics in action: to bolster egos, and give the illusion of committing to the environment, when in fact you’re passing the buck to small businesses that already have enough on our plates.
I’m about real environmental efforts, like addressing the abysmal recycling rates in Colorado, or better public transportation to reduce reliance on cars, or holding Suncor and other polluters accountable, or the City of Denver doing absolutely anything within their own buildings to be more sustainable (they still use K-cups in the mayor's office and not local coffee).

This experience at Walgreens showed me that, as always, the big guys will worm out of enforcing the law…as small businesses like mine actually follow the directive.

I am all for the reduction of harmful plastic bags, electronics waste and many more things that negatively impact our environment, but I believe in starting first with enforcing shifts with the very largest culprits like Amazon, Target, etc., rather than those of us who already made the shifts long ago — because we already actually give a shit about our community!

Erika Righter is a social worker-turned small business owner. She has worked in foster care, rural social work, and with older adults. In 2012, Erika founded Hope Tank, a gift store that gives back. She uses retail to connect the over 40,000 customers who come into Hope Tank every year to justice-focused organizations and groups doing important work in our community. She consults with for-profits and nonprofits on their impact and messaging, and started an inclusive business directory in 2017 called The Hope Slinger’s Guide.

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds and essays on matters of interest to the community. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also comment on this piece.
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