New Colorado Laws 101: Plastic Pollution Reduction Act

March 19, 2024

The Arvada Chamber has assembled explainer posts for five major Colorado laws that impact businesses in 2024. Read below for this legislation’s eligibility, key dates, and the requirements for businesses.


Plastic Pollution Reduction Act

The Colorado Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (House Bill 21-1162) was passed in 2021 to reduce pollution from single-use plastic shopping bags. The bill was written to be implemented in two phases in order to transition away from single-use plastic bags and polystyrene (also known as Styrofoam) packaging. The bill was primarily targeted at large retailers and grocery stores, though restaurants are affected as well.

Phase One

The first phase of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act began on January 1st of 2023, and it required grocery stores and large businesses to charge a $0.10 fee for every paper or plastic bag used by a customer. The initial phase of the bill was designed as a stepping stone towards an eventual plastic bag ban, set to take effect in the second phase of the bill.

Phase Two

The bill’s second phase, which was implemented on January 1st, 2024, eliminated plastic shopping bags from many grocery stores and retailers in the state, though stores are able to distribute the remainder of their plastic bag inventory until June. Stores are now only able to offer paper grocery bags to customers, still for a 10-cent fee. Beginning in April, stores must deliver 60% of their revenue from carry-out paper bags to the municipality or county where the store is located, and the store retains the additional 40%. 

Additionally, this second phase of the bill prohibits retail food locations from distributing polystyrene (Styrofoam) food containers to customers, again with the caveat that restaurants can use the remainder of their stock of these items. 

According to the bill, local governments can penalize a store up to $500 for a second violation, and as much as $1000 for subsequent violations. 

What businesses will be affected?

The Plastic Pollution Reduction Act’s plastic bag ban and 10-cent paper bag fee applies to “large retailers,” defined as stores that have more than three locations in Colorado, or with one or more locations outside of Colorado. The ban applies to businesses like grocery stores, liquor stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies and drug stores. 

A number of exemptions apply to the plastic bag ban, mainly for small businesses in the state that have three or fewer locations. Additionally, farmers markets and roadside stand vendors that qualify as small businesses are exempt from the plastic bag ban, along with all restaurants in the state. 

Additionally, plastic bags used prior to check-out (such as produce bags and bags for loose items) will continue to be allowed in stores. Customers participating in state or federal food assistance programs will also be exempt from the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee.

For restaurants and fast food locations, the polystyrene (Styrofoam) ban went into effect on January 1st and applies to businesses in the state that prepare and package food. Exemptions apply to businesses like farmers markets, hospitals, child care centers, or wholesale retailers, among others. For a full list of exempt businesses, see the image below.


Through the B.O.L.D. 2026 initiativeAdvocacy KAPS Council, the Jefferson County Business Lobby (JCBL), and consistent outreach to elected officials at all levels of government, the Arvada Chamber strives to stay informed on the latest policy developments while advocating for a strong local economy. Find resources and ways to engage at arvadachamber.org/advocacy.

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