Colorado Enacts Single-Use Bag Fee

Starting January 1st, single-use plastic bag ban House Bill 21-1162 went into effect in Colorado statewide to help reduce waste and environmental pollution. The new law prevents stores and food retail businesses from having single-use plastic bags available to customers for purchases and carryout items. Plastic bags now cost consumers $.10 per bag, or they can bring their own reusable bags for no fee. Cities like Aspen and Boulder that already had plastic bag fee policies in place before 2023, for a higher cost than $.10 per bag, will keep their policies in place. Nationally, more than 200 counties and municipalities have a plastic bag ban or fee law in place.

Supporters of House Bill 21-1162 hope the new law will drastically reduce plastic waste into the state’s landfills, oceans and local water supply. The Colorado Public Interest Research Group estimates 4.6 million plastic bags are used in Colorado every day. And the most frequently found item in Colorado streams are plastic bags which make their way into the public drinking water systems. Those who oppose the bill claim a greater inconvenience to remember to bring their own bags and do not want to pay additional fees at the grocery store during a time of inflation. The law does state that those on state or federal food assistance programs will not have to pay the $.10 per bag fee by showing their program card at checkout.

While companies like Walmart have proactively pulled all single-use plastic bags from all Colorado store locations, the single-use plastic bag ban may not affect all small “mom and pop” shops. The law is in effect for any store or food retailer with three or more locations. Single businesses may still offer plastic bags to their customers without any fees. For those businesses with three or more locations, per the law, 60% of profits from the bag fees are to be given to their local government quarterly to be used exclusively for the enforcement of the bag fee policies and programs dedicated solely to waste diversion in Colorado. Businesses can keep the remaining 40% of the bag fees to use as they need. The plastic bag fee is just the start. On January 1st, 2024, single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers will be completely eliminated to be replaced with recycled paper bags only, also for a minimum fee of $.10 per bag.