Eagle County stores prepare for statewide single-use bag fees starting Jan. 1
Colorado's Plastic Pollution Reduction Act has more stringent restrictions starting in 2024
Vail and Avon have for some time charged shoppers in large stores for single-use bags. The charge is coming to the rest of Eagle County and Colorado starting Jan. 1.
The new law, called the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, will impose a 10-cent fee for single-use bags for those shopping at what the law defines as large stores. The fees can be charged for either paper or plastic bags.
According to the Colorado Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, a “large store” is one with:
- More than three locations.
- A business with stores located in states besides Colorado.
- A franchise business.
During a Monday presentation to the Eagle County commissioners, Kate Kirkman, the county’s climate programs coordinator, briefed the board on the available options.
Kirkman noted that the law allows local governments to charge more for bags. The Vail Town Council this month approved an ordinance to raise that town’s current 10-cent bag fee — imposed primarily at the town’s grocery stores — to 25 cents. The ordinance also extends the charge to all retail stores.
Vail and Avon require business licenses. The county doesn’t. Eagle County Resiliency Director Tori Franks told the commissioners the lack of business licenses makes it hard to get a good list of businesses in unincorporated Eagle County.
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But, she added, the current law won’t be “super impactful” to businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas. Large stores in unincorporated Eagle County include Village Market in Edwards and Whole Foods in Basalt.
The 10-cent fee will be split between businesses and local governments, with businesses receiving 40% of the fee. The remainder is to be dedicated to education and other sustainability efforts.
Franks noted that bag fees in Vail and Avon bring in between $20,000 and $40,000 per year.
Commissioner Matt Scherr said he believes the county’s program should focus on consistency and simplicity. The fees should be enough to run the program, he said, adding that perhaps the Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative could manage the funds.
While the government portion of the bag fee is to be used in part for education, Franks said the county’s metropolitan districts, the Vail Valley Partnership and other groups could be used to get out the word.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry agreed that the county’s program should be consistent with other local governments, so it’s likely the fee will stay at 10 cents.
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney noted that money for education from the 2023 bag fee might be put to good use to inform the public about a more stringent statewide ban in 2024. Starting on Jan. 1 of that year, stores will only be able to offer paper bags to shoppers. That expansion — which includes Styrofoam — will prohibit stores and restaurants from providing customers with single-use plastic bags. That rule again applies to businesses with more than three locations.
The law also allows a business to use its existing inventory of plastic bags until they run out.
“We need to tell people not to buy any more plastic, or they have to purchase it by Jan. 1, 2024,” Chandler-Henry said.