Colorado to ban single-use plastic bags, create new fees

Gov. Jared Polis signed a new law Tuesday that’s meant to force Colorado businesses and consumers to reduce their use of single-use plastic and polystyrene products.

“We know that plastic pollution affects all parts of our environment, including human health,” Polis said.

HB21-1162, which Polis signed in Denver, bans polystyrene packaging and single-use plastic bags starting on Jan. 1, 2024. The law allows several exemptions, including for restaurants and shops businesses with three or fewer locations in the state — basically, as long as they aren’t a chain with locations outside the state.

The affected retailers also must impose starting Jan. 1, 2023, a 10-cent bag fee, which applies even to recycled paper bags. Local governments can enact their own fees sooner than that, as Denver has done, and can set their own regulations of plastic and packaging products above and beyond what the state requires. And some are already fixing to.

“We’re planning to do what we can,” Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said.

The revenue from the 10-cent bag fees will mostly go back to local governments, though some will be spent on waste diversion and enforcement of the fee rules.

Democrats in the legislature passed HB21-1162 without a single Republican vote. It was backed by climate change-focused groups who noted the harmful environmental effects of the products the law targets.

“These plastics that we’re eliminating and phasing out,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter of Littleton, who sponsored the bill, “are thee most egregious forms of plastic. … They’re easy to replace. We can do this, and this is a great first step.”

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