DENVER — Colorado's ban on plastic bags and polystyrene cups and containers will take effect in 2024. In the meantime, retailers are working to clear them from their stores.
On January 1, a statewide fee for single-use plastic bags went into effect. The law requires a fee of at least 10 cents per plastic or paper bag, although any community that already had a higher fee in place can continue enforcing that fee.
With the 10-cent fee, four cents stay with the business to help them implement plastic reduction techniques, while six cents go to the local government.
House Bill 23-1285 is working its way through the Colorado State Capitol, and would ensure that small communities without local government programs dedicated to bag fees spend the money on reusable bags.
“What we're trying to do is fix an issue that we didn't foresee," said State Representative Alex Valdez, D-Denver, who is a prime sponsor of the legislation. “There are some really small municipalities, really small towns in Colorado ... Since they don't necessarily have a local government that can remit those funds, they need something to do with them. This bill fixes that by allowing them to buy reusable bags.”
If a local government has programs set up for the collected funds, then the fees will go there first.
“If that program doesn't exist, then the merchant can now use that to purchase reusable bags," said Valdez. “We think we come full circle that way and we create less waste, which is really what we're after.”
Mike Keuler is the owner of So Damn Gouda, a cheese shop in Denver. He said the shop has a system for the plastic and paper bag fees now, and supports the goal of the bill currently in the legislature.
“If this program is bringing in money, it needs to go back to what the original cause of the bill is," said Keuler. “Especially in lower-income areas, you don't want to be charging people additional money for something that they A, don't want to pay for or B, can't afford. So, the key is to give them the resources to be able to not have to pay for it.”
HB23-1285 passed out of the Senate on Thursday, May 4, and heads back to the House of Representatives so lawmakers can concur with amendments made. Valdez believes the bill is likely to become law.
Restaurants and small local businesses with three or fewer locations will be exempt from the plastic bag ban in 2024.