Bag Fee Return
Reducing Waste, One Bag at a Time: Colorado’s New 10-Cent Fee on Plastic and Paper checkout Bags
The State of Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (House Bill 21-1162) was passed in 2021 to reduce and mitigate plastic pollution in Colorado. The city intends to enact Ordinance(s) in line with HB 21-1162 as well. It is estimated that people living in the US use on average 365 plastic bags per year. These bags are not widely recyclable because they damage recycling equipment, and even when they are put into the trash, lightweight plastic bags are often carried into the environment by wind. Plastic bags are one of the most common pollutants in Colorado rivers, and can be lethal to birds, fish and cattle that mistake plastics for food.
Starting January 1, 2023, paper and plastic checkout bags distributed at large Colorado retailers will be charged a fee of $0.10 per bag.
Which businesses are required to charge $0.10 cents per plastic or paper checkout bag as of January 1, 2023?
- Grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores, pharmacies or drug stores, or other retailers with more than three locations in Colorado OR with one or more locations outside of Colorado are required to charge $0.10 per checkout bag.
Many Colorado businesses will be exempt from charging the bag fee, including:
- "Small" stores (the law defines small stores as those with three or fewer locations operating solely in Colorado, and is not part of a franchise, corporation, or partnership that has physical locations outside of Colorado)
- Farmers and roadside markets
- Restaurants (if the restaurant prepares or serves food in individual portions for on- or off-site consumption and the restaurant is not a grocery or convenience store)
Where do the fees collected go?
Retailers may keep four cents of each 10-cent fee to cover costs of compliance (including providing reusable bags for free or for purchase, training employees etc.). Municipalities will collect 60% of the fees to administer the program, or to provide education and outreach or support for recycling, compost, or waste diversion programs in their communities.
Do I have to pay the fee?
Consumers are able to skip the fee by bringing their own reusable bags, including previously used plastic or paper bags. Recipients of federal or state food assistance – such as EBT, SNAP, or WIC – do not have to pay the bag fee.
Does the 10 cent fee apply to all bags?
No. The 10 cent fee is generally applied at larger retailers, and only on plastic and paper checkout bags. Other types of bags you receive within a store, such as produce bags, bags used for loose, bulk items, dry cleaning bags, and bags used for prescription medicine are exempt from the fee.