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DENVER (KDVR) — The new year comes with a new fee in Colorado.

Those who live in Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins are no strangers to this fee, but other municipalities should prepare to bring their own bags starting on Jan. 1.

“Here in Colorado, we have a big plastic pollution problem,” said Danny Katz, executive director of CoPIRG, a public interest research group. “We estimate that before the pandemic, Colorado was going through about 4.6 million single-use plastic bags a day. When you think about it, there’s a huge cost to all this single-use plastic.”

Plastic everywhere, even Rocky Mountain National Park

In an effort to reduce some of the plastic use in the state, lawmakers passed a measure last year that requires stores in the state to charge customers 10 cents per plastic bag if shoppers do not bring their own reusable bag.

“You can see those single-use plastic bags caught in the waterways, flapping on trees, and they can break down into smaller microplastics. We’re seeing microplastics found in waterways all across the state, including in some of the most pristine lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. So we’re just producing way too much single-use plastic,” Katz said.

It will not be much different for some shoppers.

“For shoppers in the City and County of Denver, there really won’t be much of a change. Retailers in Denver already charge a 10-cent fee for any bag provided to a customer at checkout at retail stores. And that is already aligned with the state’s bill, so no change there,” said Grace Rink, chief climate officer for the City and County of Denver.

Plastic bag ban takes effect statewide in 2024

Denver’s 10-cent bag fee went into effect last July. Like the state’s fee, 60% of the fee collections goes to the municipality where the store is located. The other 40% goes to the retailers, using the dollars for education about the law and helping shoppers get reusable bags. This 10-cent fee is just the first phase in part of a bigger statewide plan.

“State law actually bans plastic bags statewide starting Jan. 1, 2024,” Rink said. “However, retailers are allowed to continue using the plastic bags that they have in their inventory through June 1, 2024. So shoppers statewide will start to see a decrease in availability of plastic bags right away, starting Jan. 1, 2024, and then they’ll see them go away completely June 1, 2024.”

So far, Denver has collected almost $3 million in bag fees. The city said compliance has not been an issue but is looking to make some slight changes with a council vote on Monday so it will better mirror state law.

Proposed changes to Denver’s fee include:

  • Clarifying definitions of stores the rule applies to
  • Clarification of the compliance process and appeals
  • Removing an exemption for small bags to mimic the state law (think of places like dispensaries that put goods in those smaller bags, not produce bags, which will remain exempt)
  • Adding a ban on styrofoam takeout containers, like the statewide effort taking effect on Jan. 1, 2024
  • Revisions to mirror the state’s call to ban plastic bags by Jan. 1, 2024, but allow stores to use their inventory through June 1, 2024