Plastic bags at grocery stores will start to disappear on January 1

BY FREDA MIKLIN
STAFF WRITER

Beginning January 1, 2024, retail stores and retail food establishments will be prohibited from providing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers, unless…

The retail food establishment is a restaurant or small store that operates solely in Colorado and has three or fewer locations.

The plastic bags were purchased by the retail or grocery store providing them before January 1, 2024. In that case, the store may provide them so as to liquidate their inventory but must charge at least ten cents per bag for doing so. This exception ends on May 31, 2024, regardless of whether or not there are any single-use plastic bags purchased before January 1, 2024 remaining. 

As of January 1, 2024, stores to which none of those exceptions apply may only furnish recycled paper carryout bags to customers at the point of sale for a fee of at least ten cents per bag. 

Beginning July 1, 2024, local governments, who did not ask for this responsibility, are authorized to enforce this law with civil penalties including fines against retail establishments that fail to follow the rules. They will receive 60% of the proceeds of bag sales beginning no later than April 1, 2024 to cover the cost of doing so.

Cities and counties are specifically authorized to use the money they receive from bag fees, “to pay for administrative and enforcement costs and any recycling, composting, or other waste diversion programs or related outreach or education activities.”

The law “does not apply to materials used in the packaging of pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, or dietary supplements or any equipment or materials used to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, or dietary supplements.”

A retail clerk told The Villager that Walmart has already stopped providing single-use bags because, “They didn’t want their check-out personnel to have to police whether customers were being honest about the number of bags they took.” She explained that when there was a discrepancy between bag sales as reported by customers and the number of bags remaining in Walmart’s inventory, it was left to the store to explain why the numbers didn’t reconcile. Not providing single-use bags eliminates that problem.

It was June 8, 2021 when the final vote was taken on HB21-1162 Management of Plastic Products that created these rules, one reason why many Coloradans don’t remember them.

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