Where Does The Bag Money Go?

In July 2021, Governor Polis signed House Bill 21-1162 into law. The Plastics Pollution Reduction Act began phasing out single use plastics on Jan. 1, 2023 by requiring retailers to charge 10 cents per plastic bag, with the goal of reducing pollutants in Colorado. 

While the law has certain exceptions for small and Colorado-based retailers with fewer than 4 locations, Jan. 1, 2024 marked another milestone, as retailers such as grocery stores, convenience stores and major franchises will now be required to completely eliminate the use of single use plastics. And while recyclable bags (read: paper) may be purchased for 10 cents, it marks a critical shift away from plastic. 

The City of Edgewater’s Sustainability coordinator, Paige Johnson, noted another critical change in the new year. “The law will ban the use of polystyrene foam takeout containers (commonly referred to as Styrofoam) from restaurants.” Fines imposed on businesses not in compliance range from $500 to $1000 over the course of three violations.

Per HB 21-116, bag fees can be used for administration costs associated with implementing and enforcing the fee, providing reusable bags to the community, educating residents, business and visitors on the impacts of disposable bags, and other waste reduction, recycling and composting programs. After collection, 40% of the revenue is returned to the retailer and 60% of the funds collected go to the municipality in which they are collected. 

Edgewater, which started collecting fees in mid-2023, is considering using the funds to expand residential and commercial composting programs and zero waste programming at city facilities, according to Johnson. 

The City of Wheat Ridge uses a portion of the revenue to fund Sustainable Wheat Ridge programs, according to the City’s website. 

The Town of Mountain View does not currently collect fees and does not anticipate doing so in 2024, as the town only hosts a small number of commercial establishments, and likely none of them are impacted by the bill. If Mountain View began to collect fees, they would go to sustainable expense line items, according to Mayor Emilie Mitcham.  

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