Major stores to start charging 10-cent fee for paper, plastic bags Jan. 1

Single-use plastic bags hang in the scrub near Commons Park in Denver on Feb. 11, 2021. Colorado Newsline photo by Faith Miller

ALAMOSA — A bill signed into law by Governor Jared Polis in July of 2021 that ultimately bans the use of plastic bags and polystyrene containers typically used for carry-out orders in restaurants takes effect on Jan. 1.

Starting in January, HB21-1162 Management of Plastic Materials requires retail establishments with more than three locations to assess a 10-cent fee on all paper and plastic bags. The bill impacts major grocery stores and supermarkets, major convenience stores, major liquor stores, major retailers and other major retail outlets that provide plastic shopping bags.

The fee will not be assessed on bags used for frozen foods, meat, seafood, plants and other items that could be otherwise contaminated.

Smaller stores with three or fewer locations, farmers and roadside markets, laundry or dry cleaning services and pharmacies will be exempt from charging the fee.

Sixty percent of the collected fees will go to local municipalities to pay for costs related to recycling and composting. The remaining forty percent will go to businesses.

On Jan. 1, 2024, a ban on all plastic bags and polystyrene containers will go into effect, with major stores and restaurants only being allowed to use what remaining stock they have in inventory until July 1, 2024.

The original intent was for Colorado to join the growing list of states that have banned the use of all plastic bags and polystyrene containers and encourage people to use reusable bags for their purchases.

However, major pushback from Republicans in the state legislature, lobbyists for the plastic industry and some in the business community resulted in a final bill that undermined several aspects of the bill’s original intention by allowing smaller retail establishments and restaurants (those with three or fewer locations) to continue using plastic bags and polystyrene unless prohibited by their local governments.

Even with the exemptions, no Republican legislator voted for the bill.

According to the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, Coloradans use an estimated 4.6 million single-use plastic bags and 1.2 polystyrene cups every single day. That figure is based on national statistics that show that each individual living in the United States uses (and disposes of) 306 single-use plastic bags and 82 foam cups a year.

Single-use plastic bags are typically made from petroleum-based plastic, which are not biodegradable — meaning they do not decompose or dissolve on their own. Research has proven that, when exposed to sunlight, single-use plastic bags may break down over the period of 20 to 50 years, at which point they turn into microplastics which have been found in — literally all parts of the planet, from the top of Mount Everest to samples extracted from some of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean.

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