Colorado joins growing list of states banning plastic bags

DENVER (KDVR) — For those in Colorado, plastic grocery bags will soon be a thing of the past.

Stores throughout the state have had to charge a 10-cent fee for every single-use bag they provide to customers since the start of 2023. Retailers could choose whether or not to keep providing plastic or paper single-use bags, with some, such as Walmart, eliminating single-use bags altogether.

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A second part of the law, passed in 2021, will take effect in January 2024. At that point, stores and some food establishments will no longer be allowed to buy new single-use plastic bags.

These establishments will still be able to provide the bags to customers for the fee, provided they still have some in stock. But this status quo doesn’t last forever: Starting June 1, stores won’t be able to sell any single-use plastic bags to customers at all.

Single-use paper bags, however, will still be allowed to be sold.

Like most laws, there are exceptions. For example, stores with less than three locations that only operate in Colorado are exempt from the law. The fees and bans also don’t apply to certain types of single-use bags, like pharmacy bags or the plastic bags provided in the fruit and vegetable section of stores.

What states have enacted plastic bag bans?

Colorado is certainly not the first to ban single-use plastic bags.

That title belongs to California, where the bag ban went into effect in 2016. The state followed that up this year, announcing it would ban the use of plastic produce bags starting in January 2025.

Hawaii technically came slightly earlier, though it does not have a statewide ban. Instead, its major counties enacted their own bans between 2011 and 2015, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New York’s single-use plastic bag ban took effect in October 2020. Since then, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont have largely banned single-use plastic bags since the summer of 2021. New Jersey’s ban (which also includes paper bags at larger retailers) went into effect in May 2022.

Rhode Island’s ban on single-use plastic bags will take effect on January 1, 2024, or within a year of regulations being established by the state’s Department of Environmental Management — whichever comes first.

Bills that would have banned plastic bags in Massachusetts and New Mexico failed to pass this year.

Retailers are also ditching plastic

Some retailers are also launching efforts to drop their plastic bags in the trash (sort of).

The nationwide grocery chain Kroger announced in 2018 that it intended to phase out single-use plastic bags by 2025. Its QFC stores, found around Washington and Oregon, stopped offering single-use bags in April 2019.

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Walmart, which already ditched plastic bags in multiple states, announced earlier this year that it would “double down on reducing waste” by transitioning away from single-use plastic bags for pickup and delivery orders. Instead, the retailer would offer paper bag mailers — but it’s the customers that get to decide which is used.

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