Plastic bags will cost you 10 cents at Denver grocery stores starting July 1

If you forget your reusable bags, you’ll be out a few dimes.

A plastic shopping bag is surrounded by a circle of liquid somewhere in Athmar Park. Dec. 3, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A plastic shopping bag is surrounded by a circle of liquid somewhere in Athmar Park. Dec. 3, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Rebecca Speiss.

Starting on July 1, Denverites will have three options at the grocery store: bring your own reused bag, go without one… or pay ten cents for each one.

According to the city, Denver uses over 100 million disposable bags every year, yet only 5 percent are ever recycled. The plastic bags are notoriously difficult to recycle and cannot be collected by the city in their purple recycling bins either. Paper bags are easier to recycle, but require a lot of resources to make.

So where can you expect to see the fee? All retail stores, including grocery stores, department stores, liquor stores and hardware stores. The exceptions include businesses where retail is not the main revenue generator, like beauty salons or restaurants. Temporary vendors, like farmer’s markets, wont have to charge, either; and dispensaries are exempt because their little paper bags are too small to fall into this ordinance.

Retail stores will list the number of bags and the resulting charge separately on their receipts.

A few more details

The law was passed in 2019, but implementation was delayed because nobody wanted to ask for even one more dime in 2020.

Bags that are provided within a store don’t carry a charge. For example, you won’t be required to pay for bags containing prescription medications, or for the small plastic bags in the produce aisles. If you buy flowers or potted plants, you also won’t be charged for the bag collecting water drips.

Individuals on federal food assistance programs, like SNAP or EBT will also be exempted from paying the fee.

What is the city going to do with their new dimes? Nothing exciting, really. Stores get to keep 40 percent to cover the cost of implementing the fee (which will likely include putting up new signage and training employees). They can also use the money to provide free reusable bags to customers.

The other 60 percent goes back to the city, which it says it will use to cover the program, hand out free disposable bags, create PSAs and maybe even fund community cleanups.

And to people who use disposable bags to collect their recycling: the city has a simple answer. Put your recyclables in your purple bins without them, loose. No one needs the bags at all, and they actually cause damage to recycling equipment.

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