Implementing the Plastic Checkout Bag Ban, a component of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act
Implementation of Phase 2 of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act goes into effect January 1, 2024, and includes the following components:
- Large Colorado retailers are prohibited from distributing plastic checkout bags (but may use up remaining inventory until supplies are deleted, or until June 1, 2024). Retailers must charge the $0.10 fee on any plastic bags distributed through June.
- Large Colorado retailers are required to keep charging a minimum $0.10 fee per paper checkout bag.
- Retail food establishments are prohibited from distributing polystyrene foam (commonly referred to as Styrofoam®) food and beverage containers (but may continue to use up remaining inventory until supplies are depleted).
The Role of the Municipality or County
Municipalities (or counties) have the primary role of educating the public about the January 1, 2024, ban on plastic bags and polystyrene foam. Municipalities are also responsible for implementing the policy, collecting paper bag fees from businesses, and spending the fees collected.
To help businesses comply with Phase 2 implementation of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, we have created two step-by-step guides, one for the plastic bag ban and continued fee for paper bags, and one for the ban on polystyrene foam. Use this guide for implementation of the ban on plastic checkout bags and fee on paper checkout bags.
- For more information on implementation of the ban on polystyrene food containers and cups, refer to this page
A Step-by-Step Guide for Municipalities in Implementing the Plastic Bag Ban and Paper Bag Fee
Step 1: If not already established, set up a system to collect fees for the continuation of the paper bag fee (plastic bags are banned in Phase 2)
If your municipality already has a sales tax or financial reporting software, such as GovOS, the municipal Department of Finance should create a new webpage for businesses to remit the paper checkout bag fees.
- Retailers may keep $0.04 of each $0.10 paper bag fee collected. The fee can be used to cover costs to comply with the ordinance, including providing reusable bags, training employees, etc. Based on experiences of retailers in Colorado municipalities that already have bag fees, retailers are likely to save money simply by not needing to purchase as many checkout bags to provide to customers.
- The remaining $0.06 is remitted to the municipality or county to administer the program, or to provide education and outreach or support for recycling, compost, or waste diversion programs in the community. If a municipality or county hasn’t established a process to accept the remitted fees from businesses, businesses in that jurisdiction shall retain the full $0.10 and use it for recycling, composting, or other waste diversion programs and related outreach and education activities, including purchase of reusable bags for their customers.
Note: Home Rule Municipalities can exempt the bag fee from local sales tax. Some municipalities’ codes already establish that a fee, such as the paper bag fee, is exempt from sales tax. Only Home Rule Municipalities who self-collect taxes need to consider passing an ordinance to exclude the fee from local sales tax. Here is an example of an ordinance exempting the paper bag fee from local sales tax: Golden’s ordinance.
If your municipality does not already have a system to collect taxes and fees and would like assistance, contact [email protected].
Step 2: Create a list of large retailers that are nonexempt and are required to comply with the plastic checkout bag ban (and minimum $0.10 paper bag fee)
According to Colorado law, the plastic checkout bag ban and the minimum $0.10 paper checkout bag fee required as of January 1, 2024, only applies to large retailers and grocery stores. Local ordinance may require a paper bag fee greater than $0.10 per bag, but not less than this amount. Local ordinances may also apply to more retailers than the state law, but not fewer. Nonexempt businesses must comply with the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee.
Retailers that are prohibited from distributing plastic checkout bags and required to charge a minimum $0.10 fee per paper checkout bag beginning January 1, 2024, include: Grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores, pharmacies or drug stores, retail food establishments, or other retailers with more than three locations in Colorado OR with one or more locations outside of Colorado.
Exempt businesses are retailers that are NOT prohibited from distributing plastic checkout bags and not required* to charge the $0.10 fee per paper checkout bag, and include:
- “Small” stores (the law defines small stores as those with three or fewer locations operating solely in Colorado, not as part of a franchise, corporation, or partnership that has physical locations outside of Colorado)
- Farmers markets and roadside stand vendors that qualify for the small business exemption (three or fewer locations operating solely in Colorado)
- Restaurants (restaurants are exempt from the bag ban and fee regardless of number of locations)
* Please note that exempt stores may voluntarily choose to charge the $0.10 bag fee and can keep 100% of the fees collected. The store may have to pay tax on fees collected. Municipalities and counties that would like to allow or require additional businesses to participate in the bag fee can adopt local ordinances. See sample ordinances here.
- Download Colorado’s 2024 Plastic Checkout Bag Ban Chart here
Step 3: Send a letter to nonexempt retailers alerting them of the change
While many large chain stores may already be aware of the plastic bag ban taking place on January 1, 2024, it is best to alert all nonexempt businesses in your jurisdiction of the change. Many of these businesses may be national chain stores that already have systems in place for collecting and remitting fees from distributing paper checkout bags.
You may use or customize this letter to alert local nonexempt businesses of the upcoming ban on plastic checkout bags (and the maintenance of a minimum $0.10 fee per paper bag distributed):
Step 4: Share information and resources with nonexempt businesses
To help local businesses in your jurisdiction comply with the plastic checkout bag ban (while maintaining the minimum $0.10 paper checkout bag fee), make sure to share the 2024 Guide to the Plastic Bag Ban for Businesses page, or copy the information to your own site. This toolkit for businesses includes information on how to collect and remit paper checkout bag fees, printable signage about the plastic checkout bag ban, and training materials for cashiers and employees.
Step 5: Share information and resources with the public
Alert your community of the upcoming plastic checkout bag ban and continuance of a minimum $0.10 fee on paper bags:
- Encourage them to get into the habit of using reusable bags so they can skip the paper checkout bag fee altogether!
- It’s important to let the public know that recipients of federal or state food assistance—such as EBT, SNAP, or WIC—do NOT have to pay the paper checkout bag fee.
All municipalities and other entities have permission from Eco-Cycle to copy any text from our PPRA webpages to use on your own website or in your communications. Additional resources for your communications include:
Step 6: Set up a system to monitor compliance with the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee
The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act leaves compliance measures up to the local municipality or county to enforce. Here are a few examples of how municipalities have taken different approaches to monitor compliance with the bag fee:
- Fort Collins: The City of Fort Collins uses a Business Confirmation Form as an educational tool to help businesses determine if they are exempt or must comply with the bag fee.
- Boulder: The City of Boulder monitors compliance by comparing its list of nonexempt businesses with a list of businesses that remit bag fees quarterly.
- Denver: The City and County of Denver uses an online reporting system to monitor compliance with their bag fee.
As communities develop methods to monitor compliance with the 2024 ban on plastic checkout bags, we will share case studies here.