Say Goodbye to Plastic Bags and Styrofoam Containers

New State Laws Could Change Local Habits and Lifestyles

Trevor Phipps

Now that the New Year is officially here, local residents may have to start bracing for a change in daily shopping habits and face more gun restrictions to accommodate new laws that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Several of these laws, passed previously by state lawmakers, are now in effect. They will have local impacts.  Even though they have been expected for some time, the D-day period for implementation has now arrived.

War Against Plastic Bags

Back in 2021, state lawmakers passed House Bill 21-1162 that set the date Jan. 1, 2024 to outlaw single-use plastic bags. The law stated that starting in 2023 stores could offer bags to customers, but they were forced to pay a 10- cent fee with 60 percent of the fee going to the municipality or county “to pay for administrative and enforcement costs and any recycling, composting, or other waste diversion programs or related outreach or education activities.”

The 10-cent fee was slated to last for the year 2023. And then under this measure, plastic bags would be completely banned starting this year.  Stores that still have plastic bags in their inventory face a deadline of June 1 to use them up. And according to a WP Chamber of Commerce press release, retailers can use recyclable paper bags, but at a cost of 10 cents each.

But overall, the war against plastic bags is over, with the state emerging as the clear victor, as part of a major recycling push. As a result of these changes, people will have to now alter their habits when conducting local grocery shopping, with few exceptions allowed in 2024. Now, local shoppers either must randomly throw items in their cars before bringing them home, or purchase cloth reusable bags from stores that they bring with them each time they shop.

HB 21-1162 also set Jan. 1, 2024 as the date when state law would start to prohibit the distribution of “an expanded polystyrene product (Styrofoam) for use as a container for ready-to-eat food in Colorado.

Once the ban on Styrofoam to-go containers became apparent last year, it seems like most restaurants already made the switch to biodegradable paper to-go containers. Any retail food establishment that still has Styrofoam containers can also use up what’s in their stock, but after that, those containers will be banned too.

Businesses that don’t comply can face up to $500 in fines for a second violation and up to $1,000 in fines for a third and subsequent violation. This new law may not have as big of an effect on consumers since most are already used to getting to-go foods and drinks in paper containers.

Lawmakers in Colorado jumped on the bandwagon to ban plastic bags due to environmental concerns. However, contrary to some opinions, Colorado wasn’t the first state to enact a plastic bag ban, with states like New York and California leading the campaign against plastic. Questions though persist about how effective this campaign has been.

According to an article published by NPR, banning plastic bags actually leads to more individuals purchasing plastic bags at a higher rate than before. Now that people can no longer recycle free grocery store bags to use for dog manure or trash can linings, they are forced to purchase bags that are thicker and more harmful to the environment, according to critics of the pro-green measure.

Other New Laws of Interest

Starting this year, Colorado also raised its minimum wage by 77 cents to keep up with inflation. The minimum wage across the state is now $14.42 per hour and the minimum wage for tipped workers went up to $11.44 per hour.

The voter approved Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program, which was approved in 2020 also goes into effect starting this year. Beginning January 1, eligible employees will get up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave insurance benefits annually.

FAMLI also creates new job protections for employees who take paid family and medical leave for a serious illness in their family, the arrival of new children or recovery from sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment or stalking.

A new law also requires that new buildings, constructed after Jan. 1 that are partially or entirely owned by government entities, will now be required to have a certain amount of restroom facilities that do not specify the gender of the users.

House Bill 23-1245 also goes into effect this year, and it sets limits on campaign contributions for municipal elections.

“For municipal elections held on or after January 1, 2024, the act sets aggregate limits on contributions to candidates for municipal office from persons, including any political party and excluding any small donor committee, for any election cycle in the amount of $400,” HB 23-1245 states. “The act sets aggregate limits on contributions to candidates for municipal office from small donor committees for any election cycle in the amount of $4,000.”

This could impact future local elections that have gotten more expensive in recent years, especially with candidates running as a designated group.

Another controversial law that went into effect this year prompted a lawsuit from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.  The group contends this new law violates residents’ Second Amendment rights. Senate Bill 23-279 (also known as the ghost gun ban) was signed into law last June and it essentially bans the transport and possession of frames and receivers that don’t have serial numbers.

The law does allow those that currently own ghost guns to get them serialized at a licensed gun dealership by 2024. However, the dealer will be required to run a background check on the gun owner before giving the gun back.

“This law is an outright assault on the constitutional rights of peaceable Coloradans. It’s not just an overreach, it’s a direct defiance of our Second Amendment freedoms,” Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners told Fox 31 in Denver.