(The Center Square) – If you can’t finish your meal at a Colorado restaurant in 2024, a law passed in 2021 will keep you from taking your leftovers home in a Styrofoam container and plastic bag.
Retail food establishments are prohibited from distributing ready-to-eat food in an expanded polystyrene product as a container starting on Monday. However, retail food establishments that purchased polystyrene products before that date may continue to use the containers until the supply is depleted.
“Because the law was passed in 2021, there’s been enough lead time for distributors to prepare for alternative products,” Colin Larson, director of government affairs for the Colorado Restaurant Association, said in an interview with The Center Square. “It’s going to be more expensive and this is one of those things that, hopefully, people will recognize there’s a price for. But we’re happy to comply with it.”
The law authorizes local governments and counties to enforce violations with a civil penalty of up to $500 for a second violation, and up to $1,000 for a third or subsequent violation. An exception is a local government can’t enforce a violation of a retail establishment within a school.
“We just want people to recognize that when you pass policy like this, there’s a real-world cost increase that will accompany it,” Larson said. “Those costs will get passed on to the consumer and will be reflected in the price of your meals.”
Restaurant owners have had several questions for the Colorado Restaurant Association about existing inventories of Styrofoam containers.
“It’s been a hot topic for a lot of our members,” Larson said. “They’re asking if they have a warehouse with containers but they’re not on the premises, can they use them? I’ve been helping navigate a lot of questions like that and basically, any product they own prior to Jan. 1, 2024, they’re allowed to use until they’ve depleted their stock. But they’re not allowed to purchase any new Styrofoam product.”
Larson said the cost of Styrofoam alternatives will increase costs for restaurants.
“On average it’s about twice the price per unit,” Larson said. “Rather than 10 cents, you’re looking at 20 cents. There’ll be a nominal increase, which is never a great thing. But it’s one of many forces along with inflation that’s contributing to higher menu prices.”
House Bill 21-1162, signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on July 6, 2021, also prohibits stores and retail establishments from providing single-use carryout bags to customers starting Monday, but exempts restaurants and small stores operating solely in Colorado and have three or fewer locations. Consumers have been paying a 10-cent per plastic bag fee enacted by the law.
“The prohibition does not apply to inventory purchased before January 1, 2024, and used on or before June 1, 2024, which may be supplied to a customer at the point of sale for a 10-cent or greater fee,” the bill says.
Starting April 1, 2024, stores will be required to remit 60% of the carryout bag fee revenue to the municipality or county where they store is located. The remaining 40% can be retained by the store.