Fort Collins’ plastic bag ban goes into effect May 1. Here is the FAQ.

It’s almost time for Fort Collins grocery stores to ditch plastic bags.

The city’s plastic bag ban will go into effect at major grocers on Sunday, May 1. On the same day, city-limit grocery stores will begin charging 10 cents for paper bags. The new policy is the result of a ballot measure approved by voters in 2021.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the bag ban.

What stores are included in Fort Collins’ plastic bag ban?

The plastic bag ban applies to 19 grocery stores in Fort Collins, including all Walmart, Target, King Soopers, Safeway and Sprouts stores, as well as Lucky’s Market, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The grocers affected by the ban are at least 10,000 square feet and sell at least four of the following types of food: staples, meat, dairy, frozen food or other perishables intended for human consumption.

What types of plastic bags are included in the ban?

The plastic bag ban only applies to single-use plastic bags at the point of sale – the type used to pack your groceries. It does not apply to trash bags or bags for bulk items, products or drugs.

Who is exempt from the paper bag tax?

Anyone who participates in a local, state or federal government assistance program. This includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid program), among others. To prove your eligibility, you will need to show your benefits card or, if you are using local income benefit programs, you can show the cashier the Get:FoCo app on your phone.

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Who gets the paper bag tax money?

The city shares the cost with the grocers 60/40, with the largest share going to the city. The 6 cents per bag is intended to cover the cost of implementing the program for the city, including consumer education and the distribution of free reusable bags. The program is meant to be revenue-neutral for the city, creating neither profit nor uncovered expenses. Grocers are expected to spend their 4-cent share on signage, employee training and promoting reusable bags.

Why is the city doing this?

The Fort Collins City Council put the bag ban measure on the 2021 ballot in an effort to reduce plastic pollution and help the city reach its goal of zero waste by 2030. Plastic bags represent a small portion of the waste stream, but the city can’t achieve zero waste without tackling every piece of the pie. Council members who supported the ballot measure were also concerned about microplastic pollution and plastic bag litter.

About 60% of Fort Collins voters approved of the ban.

How will this work for grocery delivery and curbside pickup?

Each store is responsible for their own approach here, but most stores will likely use paper bags and charge the fee unless the customer is part of an exempt group.

What about self-pay?

Buyers can bring their own bags or use paper bags. If you are using paper, the system will prompt you to enter the number of bags you used for your order, and the charge will appear on your receipt. If you are exempt from paper bag fees, you will not have to pay them at checkout if you show proof that you are receiving income-tested assistance.

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What should I use for dog poop, kitty litter, wastebasket liners, etc. ?

Holly Pummell, senior sustainability specialist in Fort Collins, suggested getting creative. You can reuse other bags or packaging from around the house, reuse paper bags, or put pet waste with your household trash just before you take out the trash.

You can also buy small plastic bags for pet waste or garbage bags, some of which are marked as biodegradable.

Where can I get cheap or free reusable shopping bags?

The city will continue to distribute free reusable bags at local events and through partner organizations while supplies last. Pummell also suggested checking out thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or Facebook groups (including “buy nothing” groups).

What about Colorado’s ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers?

The local plastic bag ban precedes a broader statewide policy that will go into effect in 2023 and 2024. Starting in 2024, plastic bags will be banned from most stores and restaurants in Colorado , and styrofoam/styrofoam containers (including cups) will be banned in restaurants and other “food retail establishments”. Affected businesses will begin collecting a 10-cent paper bag fee in 2023.

Small stores with three or fewer locations, if all in Colorado, will be exempt from the plastic bag ban, but not the polystyrene ban.

municipal Council changed local policy to better align with state policy thus, the fee amount for paper bags will remain the same once the state policy takes effect. Residents will see the paper bag tax expand to more stores and restaurants in 2023; then in 2024 the companies affected will stop offering single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

In this file photo, Dave Fritz rides his Honda scooter to drop a few plastic bags into a plastic bag and film bin at the Timberline Recycling Center in Fort Collins.

How are the city and grocery stores preparing for the ban?

Since the fall, City staff have been meeting regularly with representatives of major grocery stores to discuss logistics. For grocers, preparation has involved things like sourcing paper bags, training employees, updating their systems to incorporate paper bag fees, and developing their approaches to self-checkout, delivery home and curbside pickup. Preparations have varied from store to store, Pummell said. Some stores, such as Lucky’s Market and Trader Joe’s, already did not sell plastic bags.

The city’s preparations also involved communicating about the new policy on social media and other outlets. Additionally, the city distributed free reusable bags with the help of local organizations, focusing on middle- and low-income households.

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I always forget to bring my reusable grocery bags! Advices ?

Pummell suggested storing reusable bags in your car, bike trailer, purse or backpack so you always have a few on hand when you need them. Switching to reusable bags is a behavioral change, so with practice you might pick up a habit and start remembering to bring them with you to the store.

Should I wash my reusable bags?

Yes, by hand with soap and water or in the washing machine if they are cotton or canvas.

Jacy Marmaduke covers government liability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support his work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

Bryce K. Locke