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Several Colorado Towns & Cities Now Have Plastic And Paper Bag Fees

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) - When the city council in Fort Collins on Tuesday approved a plan requiring retailers to charge 5 cents for every disposable bag, it followed several Colorado communities that have enacted similar measures.

Here's a look at other towns and cities that charge fees -- and two whose voters rejected measures.

Aspen: 20 Cents For Paper, Plastic Banned

Aspen's city council voted in October 2011 to ban plastic bags at two local grocery stores and charge a 20-cent fee on paper bags. The ordinance went into effect on May 1, 2012.

It affects grocers, but other stores can participate voluntarily. The money generated reimburses stores (up to $1,000 a month for the first year and $100 a month after), distributes reusable bags to residents and visitors, and educates the public on environmental issues related to single-use bags.

On Aug. 12, a state judge ruled Aspen's charge is a fee, not a tax, and can remain in place. The ordinance was challenged by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, which said that all taxes need to be approved by voters under the state's Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Boulder: 10 Cents For Paper Or Plastic

On July 1, 2013, the city of Boulder began charging 10 cents for every plastic or paper bag customers need at checkout. Forty percent of the money collected goes to the store, while the city uses 60 percent to address bag-related environmental issues.

Because the charge is considered a fee and not a tax, it can't be used for general government purposes, the city said.

Bags used for produce, bulk items, meat and poultry, newspapers, restaurants and pharmacy items are not subject to the fee. The fee also doesn't apply to low-income families who participate in a federal or state assistance program.

The city council approved the fee in November 2012.

Carbondale: 20 Cents For Paper, Plastic Banned

The town's board of trustees approved a 20-cent paper fee and a ban on plastic in the fall of 2011. It cited studies it said prove that banning plastic and imposing fees on paper "dramatically reduce the use of both bags."

Its ordinance went into effect on May 1, 2012, the same day as Aspen's. Voters narrowly approved the change, 718-691, according to the Post Independent.

Like other cities, the bag ban doesn't include bulk items, meat and poultry, fruits and vegetables, and bakery goods. Newspapers and other non-grocery bags aren't banned.

Town trustees said less than 5 percent of the 2 billion plastic bags used annually in Colorado are recycled, and that plastic bags contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and litter, and harm wildlife and the local economy.

The town also approved penalties for grocers not complying with the ordinance, including $50 fines for the first offense and $100 for the second.

Telluride: 10 Cents For Paper, Plastic Banned

In March 2011, the mountain town of Telluride became the first Colorado municipality to ban plastic bags. Two months earlier, it started charging 10 cents for paper bags. The city council voted to ban plastic in October 2010.

Bags containing meat, produce, newspapers and pharmacy items are exempt.

Some other Colorado towns have rejected similar efforts:


In April 2012, voters narrowly defeated -- 51 percent to 48 percent -- a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic grocery bags, according to the Aspen Times. In September 2011, the town council had approved the ordinance and sent it to voters. Had it been approved, it would have gone into effect on May 1, 2012.


On Nov. 5, 2013, voters rejected a proposed fee by a 56 percent to 43 percent margin.

The town's "disposable checkout bag fee" would have imposed a 10-cent charge on plastic and paper bags.

The proposal would have called for grocers and businesses that opted in to receive 50 percent of the collected fee. But it could have only been used to educate customers, train staff in implementing the fee, provide recycling stations and address other bag-related concerns.

- Written by Tim Skillern for

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