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No more plastic bags

The year brings a change for shoppers across the state. Starting last month, Colorado enacted House Bill 21-1162, the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.The bill states, ìThe general assembly finds, determines, and declares that limiting the use of single-use plastic carryout bags and expanded polystyrene products will mitigate the harmful effects on our state’s natural resources and our environment that result from disposing of these products in our landfills.î For shoppers, this means a 10-cent fee per a single-use shopping bag they use at the point of sale at stores that traditionally furnish bags to their customers. The fee could potentially be increased by a municipality or county ordinance or resolution. Stores located in these municipalities or counties would then have a higher fee than 10 cents. Also affected are ready-to-eat food establishments that provide carryout bags and polystyrene containers to their customers. The goal of the bill is to phase out the use of single-use bags and expanded polystyrene by 2024. Some exceptions include small stores that operate in Colorado and have three or fewer locations. Bags used to control potential moisture issues, like those used for produce or raw meats, are excluded from the fee, as well as bags for loose bulk items, prepared and bakery foods, along with bags used by pharmacies to dispense prescription medications to customers. Customers who provide proof to the store that they are participating in a federal or state food assistance program are also exempt from paying the fee. Where does that 10 cents per bag go?Stores are required to collect the fee, with possible penalties up to $1,000 should they not enforce the fee at the point of sale. Sixty percent of the fee is reported under gross sales, and the business is required to collect sales tax on 60% of the fee as well, according to the bill. The 60% is remitted to the municipality or county where the store is located. The business is able to retain the remaining 40%, which they can use to cover compliance and administration costs. Once received by the municipality, the collected fees are then used to cover administrative and enforcement costs, as well as recycling and sustainability efforts.The cons of plastic bagsIn the July 13, 2022, article, The Pros and Cons of Plastic Bag Bans on, according to EcoWatch, ì10 metric tons of plastic fragments, including grocery bags, wash out to sea in the Los Angeles area every day. Once in the ocean, those fragments break down into smaller, nearly microscopic pieces that are consumed by sea life ó an estimated 12,000-24,000 tons per year†ó contaminating the food chain from the bottom up.îA 2015 study conducted by the University of California, Davis, found that ìone-quarter of fish sold at California markets contained whole or fibrous plastic in their stomachs.îThe article included a statement from Elizabeth Mullen Matteson, founder of The Litter Project. ìI think it goes without saying that plastics (bags included) are an enormous problem in terms of litter, mostly because plastic trash is ubiquitous, and plastic does not decay in a lifetime. The amount of plastic litter just grows and grows, especially in our oceans. This is terribly dangerous to the ecosystems that provide food to billions of people.î Is the bag ban going to be effective?A University of Georgia study found that in states with bag bans in effect, such as California and Texas, overall, fewer plastics were going to landfills. Instead of customers re-using the bags for various household tasks; for example, lining wastepaper baskets, they were throwing away heavier duty reusable plastic bags at a higher rate. A study by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark in 2018 showed that disposable single-use bags have less of an environmental impact than alternative bags. Depending on the material used for alternates, bags would have to be reused between 35 times (polyester polyethylene terephthalate or PET, the typical reusable bags purchased at grocery stores) and 7,100 (conventional cotton bags) times ìto negate the pollution of its production and to equal that of a plastic bag that has only been used one time,î according to the article, The Pros and Cons of Plastic Bag Bans. After Jan. 1, 2024, stores can provide the bags at the 10-cent fee only if they have remaining bags in their inventory. On or after Jan. 1, 2024, stores will also apply the fee to recycled paper bags. Additionally, retail food establishments will no longer be able to use expanded polystyrene containers. If the store purchased the containers before Jan. 1, 2024, they can use the products until their supply is depleted.

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