CoPIRG supports producer responsibility bill to reduce waste, transform Colorado’s recycling system

Media Contacts

DENVER – Building on successful programs in dozens of countries and recent action taken by Maine and Oregon, a bipartisan team of Colorado legislators introduced a producer responsibility bill, HB22-1355, that will transform Colorado’s dismal recycling system, creating the infrastructure to reuse valuable glass, aluminum and paper and the incentives for large companies to reduce the amount of non recyclable and unnecessary packaging that comes wrapped around our stuff.  

According to a joint CoPIRG/Eco-Cycle State of Recycling report, Colorado recycles just 15% of its waste, less than half the national average. Colorado’s recycling rate is largely due to a lack of  easy access by many residents to convenient, affordable curbside recycling services and the production of materials that are not easily recyclable like single-use plastics that wrap so many of the goods people buy. 

“Colorado’s recycling rate is an abysmal 15%, which means 85% of our waste winds up in landfills instead of being reused,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG executive director. “Too often, as consumers, we’re left to figure out what to do with the glass, aluminum, paper and plastic packaging that comes with our stuff. Producer responsibility will help cut down on the amount of unnecessary packaging that inundates us right now, and will fund a robust recycling system to ensure the stuff that wraps our goods is collected and reused.”

According to a Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment survey, Colorado landfills recyclable material that could have been sold for over $100 million. That material could be used by businesses to reduce the impact of supply-chain challenges by creating a reliable source of paper, metal, plastics and glass to make new products and would reduce pollution because recycling just one ton of materials saves three tons of carbon pollution,

“People believe we have a green state, and are shocked to hear how low our diversion rates are,” said State Representative Lisa Cutter, one of the sponsors of HB22-1355. “This bill will protect our climate, create an easier and more consistent system of recycling throughout the state, and contribute to creating a circular economy. We’ve been laggards in this area and this will give us the opportunity to be leaders.”

“HB22-1355 will benefit our beautiful state’s environment, our businesses with a diversified and resilient supply-chain and finally our families who will benefit from free recycling services,” said State Senator Kevin Priola, one of the senate sponsors.

The Colorado Producer Responsibility bill, HB22-1355, would transform Colorado’s waste and recycling system by requiring producers to pay into a fund based on the packaging around their products, whether that packaging is cans, bottles, boxes, containers, shrink wrap or other material. The dues paid would fund an expansion of recycling infrastructure so that everyone in Colorado would have easy access to recycling at no additional cost to them or taxpayers, and businesses would gain access to a reliable source of recycled materials like glass, aluminum, and paper from our recycling bins.   

Right now, taxpayers and local governments are on their own to figure out recycling programs,  resulting in an inconvenient, inconsistent and largely inequitable set of programs with much higher costs in rural areas and dozens of communities where curbside recycling does not exist. 

Local government leaders from the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA) spoke at the bill launch event in strong support of producer responsibility, citing the ways it can reduce costs for local governments, remove barriers for consumers, and expand recycling services and access for everyone. 

HB22-1355 is based on successful producer responsibility programs across Canada and Europe that have resulted in recycling rates of 70-80%. The bill has been tailored to fit with Colorado’s unique waste and business environment. Recycle Colorado and coalition partners engaged in a nine-month stakeholder process conducting at least 70 broad group and 1:1 meetings to craft a bill to best fit the needs of Colorado’s diverse communities.

If passed, the bill would create a new nonprofit industry association made up of the companies that pay into the system. Those companies are most often the brand name on the product. Globally, over 100 leading businesses have endorsed the idea of producer responsibility and these companies have participated in similar programs in Canada for decades.  

The new association would be responsible for funding and managing a coordinated statewide recycling system that builds off and expands upon existing local infrastructure and service providers. The program will be overseen by a diverse advisory council that includes local governments, private service providers and haulers, and environmental voices. The producer responsibility program would need to be approved by CDPHE.  

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Energy and Environment committee on Thursday, April 7th at 1:30pm.