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Colorado Springs collects nearly $1 million in bag fees in 2023

Keep It Clean COS crew.jpeg
Posted at 8:51 AM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 10:52:04-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The streets and roadways in Colorado Springs will look even cleaner in 2024 thanks to all of those $0.10 fees that shoppers paid last year for a bag at the grocery story.

Colorado lawmakers passed a single-use plastic ban in 2021. Retailers must discontinue providing plastic bags at check out once their inventory runs out.

Large retailers and grocery chains began collection the $0.10 per bag fee last January. Money generated by the fees is split 60/40 between the local government and the retailer.

Bag fee revenue from 2023 exceeded $900,000 through November, Colorado Springs Chief Financial Officer Charae McDaniel said. Retailers have until the end of the month to submit fee revenue from December.

"We're really excited about having that amount to contribute to the keep it clean program," McDaniel said.

The Keep it Clean COS program is part of the city's public works division.

Keep it Clean employees remove mountains of rubbish from the streets each year, Corey Farkas, the manager of the Colorado Springs Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division, said.

"This is a team that picked up almost 1,200 trash trucks full of trash out of right of way last year," Farkas said.

Daniel Velasquez has worked with the Keep it Clean program for nearly three years. In that time, he's seen the community in ways that most would rather not.

"I've picked up used needles, unused needles, bags of needles from stores that weren't used yet," Velasquez said.

Cities and counties must spend the bag fee revenue on recycling, composting or other waste diversion programs. Farkas was pleasantly surprised when McDaniel notified him of the new revenue stream.

"When you've got an operation with such a large task in front of it, any time Charae calls and says that we've got a revenue stream coming in, it puts a smile on my face because that helps, every little bit helps," he said

Lawmakers wanted to discourage the public from consuming single-use plastics. The law encourages shoppers to purchase and use reusable bags. So, McDaniel expects the bag fee revenue to decline in future years.

"We want to be a little bit careful about that revenue source and know that, over time, it may be declining," she said.

That behavior seems to be changing. Velasquez said he's collected fewer plastic bags since the legislation took effect.

El Paso County reported bag fee revenue was much lower at $3,715 through the first 9 months of the year. The law directs the fee revenue to the local government where a retailer is licensed. Fees collected at stores in the city limits do not go to their respective counties.

Both the City of Pueblo and Pueblo County have waited to begin collecting bag fee revenue until the state mandated deadline of April 2024.

Since the fees are collected locally, the Colorado Department of Revenue does not have access to data about the total amount of fees collected statewide.

Last year's plastic bag fee helping keep Colorado Springs clean