In Colorado, polystyrene containers are banned, single-use plastic bags in large stores are banned, and there is a 10-cent fee for all disposable checkout bags used at stores.

Fee Overview

On Jan. 1, 2024, the City of Boulder’s Disposable Bag Fee expanded to all retail stores in the city. On that date, the state also implemented a ban on plastic checkout bags at large stores, and on polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups and food containers at all retail food establishments in Colorado. All disposable checkout bags will continue to be charged a $0.10 fee per bag.

  • The plastic bag ban applies to large stores (see FAQ below for small store exemption criteria)
  • Fees on disposable checkout bags apply to all retail stores, regardless of size, such as grocery stores, liquor stores, dry cleaners, pharmacy, clothing stores. Restaurants and other food establishments are exempt from the plastic bag ban and fees on other bags.
  • Restaurants and other food establishments are subject to the state's ban on polystyrene containers.
  • Customers participating in a federal or state food assistance program are not required to pay the fee.

Store Requirements

  • Display a clearly visible sign outside or inside their building alerting customers to the disposable bag fee.
  • Customer receipts clearly record the number of disposable bags provided and total fees charged.
  • Stores must remit 60% of the fee quarterly through the Boulder Online Tax System. Once logged in, select the "More" tab and click on "Add a Bag Account". Returns will be available approximately 10 business days before the end of the quarter. Stores keep 40% of the bag fee.
  • All paper checkout bags must be 100% recyclable and contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content.

Prepare Your Store for the 10-Cent Bag Fee

Required: Set up a fee collection system.

Adjust your registers to track and charge for each disposable bag provided at checkout.

  • Customer receipts must include the number of disposable bags provided and total fees charged.
  • Be sure that your system records the number of disposable bags provided to customers.

Required: Alert your customers to the fee.

Post signs reminding customers to bring their own bags and remind them about the 10-cent fee.

Good locations for signage include parking areas, store doors, shelves, checkout lanes and carts.

Required: Remit 60% of the fee to the city quarterly.

Remit fee revenues using the Boulder Online Tax System.

Once logged in, select the "More" tab and click on "Add a Bag Account". Returns will be available approximately 10 business days before the end of the quarter.

Suggested: Educate your employees.

Train employees on bag fee requirements.

Designate a bag fee expert on your team to handle questions and train new cashiers and baggers as needed.

Suggested: Locate reusable bags near checkout.

  • Place reusable bags for purchase near checkout lanes.
  • Ensure reusable bags are well stocked at each register.

Frequently Asked Questions

All stores must collect a 10-cent fee for each single-use bag used at checkout as of Jan. 1, 2024

Retail food establishments, like restaurants, are not included.

Small stores that operate solely in Colorado, have three or fewer locations, and are not part of a franchise, corporation or partnerships with physical locations outside Colorado may provide single-use plastic carryout bags with a 10-cent Disposable Bag Fee.

No, bag fees are not subject to sales tax.

The fee applies to all disposable carryout bags, PPRA legislation language linked here describes a "carryout bag" as a bag used at the "point of sale."

Exemptions have been made for the following:

  • Bags that a customer uses inside a store to package loose or bulk items such as vegetables, nuts, candy, greeting cards, etc… or to contain or wrap things like meat, fish, flowers, bakery goods, etc… This general description would include any kind of smaller gift bag/wrapping as well.
  • Bags that a pharmacy provides for the purchase of medications/prescriptions from a pharmacy
  • Bags used to protect a product from getting damaged or contaminated by another item in the carryout bag.
  • Small paper bags with a basis weight of less than or equal to 30 lbs - typically paper bag lunch sacks or smaller.
  • Laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags.
  • Reusable bags.

After Jan. 1, 2024 any large stores with plastic bags remaining in their 2023 inventory can continue giving them out until they are gone.

"Retail food establishment” is defined in section 25-4-1602(14) of the Colorado Revised Statutes. “Retail food establishment” does not include farmers markets and roadside markets.

Customers can avoid paying the bag fee by bringing their own bags to stores or by choosing not to bag their purchases.

Some stores also offer reusable bag credits, so customers can save even more than 10 cents per bag.

Four cents of the fee are kept by the store to cover costs of complying with the ordinance. The remaining six cents are used to address impacts of disposable bags in our community, including:

  • Administrative costs associated with implementing and enforcing the fee.
  • Providing reusable bags to community members.
  • Educating residents, businesses and visitors about the impacts of disposable bags.
  • Funding programs and infrastructure that allow the community to reduce waste associated with disposable bags.
  • Purchasing and installing equipment to minimize bag pollution, such as recycling containers.
  • Funding community cleanup events.
  • Mitigating the effects of disposable bags on the city’s drainage system and environment.

Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act also allows cities to use bag fee revenues for general waste reduction education and programs.

At the time of adoption, Boulder used approximately 33 million checkout bags a year, or about 342 bags per person each year. Boulder saw about a 70% decrease in plastic bag use immediately following the implementation of the bag fee, however, that trend leveled off quickly. As of early 2018, the fee had collected approximately $1,000,000.

Plastic bags are very difficult to recycle due to the limited markets for the material. They must be clean, dry and placed in collection containers at special locations. These containers are available at most grocery stores and at the Eco-Cycle/City of Boulder Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM).

Plastic bags cannot be recycled in Boulder’s curbside bins. When mixed in with other recyclables, they clog sorting machinery and cause equipment shutdowns.

Paper bags are recyclable but take large amounts of water and energy to produce.

It’s happening! For many years, Boulder was unable to ban plastic bags due to a preemption in state law. Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (PPRA) removed that regulation and created a statewide plastic bag ban.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, plastic carryout bags will be phased out of all stores in Colorado.

Yes, equity continues to be a priority.

A portion of the revenue collected from the fee is used to purchase reusable bags that are distributed to the community. City staff work with nonprofits and government agencies, such as Boulder Housing Partners and Workforce Boulder County, to distribute bags.

Additionally, the fee does not apply to anyone who participates in a federal or state food assistance program.

In 2012, City Council adopted a Disposable Bag Fee Ordinance that requires all grocery stores in Boulder to charge a 10-cent fee for every single-use bag used at checkout. City Council has since updated and expanded the ordinance to comply with Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.