Fort Collins City Council approves plastic bag fee

(Photo Credit: Hannah Hemperly)
Jessica Crowell, service desk clerk at King Soopers off College Avenue, bags groceries a day after the city council decision to begin a tax on plastic bags. (Photo Credit: Hannah Hemperly)

Correction: In this article, it was incorrectly stated that an ordinance that permits a fee on plastic bags was approved, when in fact City Council must approve any new ordinance on two readings. The July 1 vote was only the first reading. A second reading will occur August 19. 

A trip to your local grocery store may cost a little more because of a city council decision that mandates a 10-cent fee per plastic bag used at grocery stores.


For two years, Fort Collins has investigated how to reduce the estimated 52 million plastic bags used in the city each year. The latest solution is similar to what other Colorado towns, such as Boulder, have implemented. They have seen a 68 percent decrease in plastic bag usage since the implementation of a fee in 2013.

The ordinance passed with a vote of 5-2 at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, but will have to face a second voting August 19. Mayor Karen Weitkunat and Councilman Wade Troxell opposed the measure.

According to Mayor Weitkunat, she opposed the measure because she believes citizens already use “excellent judgement” when it comes to bagging decisions.

In 2013, a similar plastic bag fee failed to pass city council because of a split 3-3 vote. However, the new ordinance could make many key changes, such as making the revenue from the plastic bags go directly to grocery stores.  Half of the revenue generated from the fee will be used to distribute free reusable bags to customers, according to the mandate.

Over 10 citizens voiced differing opinions at Tuesday’s meeting. Opponents claimed the measure would raise costs for those in poverty, and also claimed that plastic bags were already reused as trash liners and as a means to dispose of animal waste in many households. Supporters of the measure, however, claimed the ordinance is essential to decrease waste in the city.

According to the law, the bagging rule would apply to people who use food stamps.

Baylee Ragar, an employee from Whole Foods and CSU senior, is in support of the fee.

“I think its awesome. It’s about time,” Ragar said. “I think a lot of people that shop here use reusable bags anyway.”

The law would go into effect next year and is expected to generate $1.6 million for grocery stores the first year. However, the total revenue is anticipated to decrease each year as more people make the switch to reusable bags, according to city estimates.

Other city council decisions


At Tuesday night’s meeting, the city also approved an amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance.

The amendment now makes it illegal to smoke e-cigarettes in all areas where conventional smoking is banned.

Additionally, the amendment now bans smoking in all hotel rooms in Fort Collins. However, the majority of places were already making the switch to smoke free.

In a poll conducted by the city, 48 percent of people said they were in favor of regulating e-cigarettes like other devices, with 30 percent saying no and the rest stating no opinion.

The amendment was approved in a 6-1 vote with Mayor Weitkunat opposing.

During a past city council work session, council members directed staff to move forward with additional smoking measures, including the approved amendment. Other future prospects include banning smoking at parks and making the Old Town area smoke free, among other things.

Collegian Senior Reporter Skyler Leonard can be reached at News Editor Hannah Hemperly contributed to this report.