Statement: Colorado green-lights huge expansion of recycling system, reduction in waste

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DENVER – Two years after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a landmark producer responsibility program, a state legislative committee on Wednesday green-lit the new recycling initiative, the second of its type in the United States. The program will shift the cost of paying for Colorado’s recycling system to product manufacturers instead of taxpayers and households.

When the program takes effect in 2026, it will stop hundreds of thousands of tons of valuable materials from going to the landfill. It’s expected to boost Colorado’s recycling rate for packaging such as bottles, cans and boxes to 60%, for a total expected amount of 720,000 pounds, by 2035. Additionally, producer responsibility will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 278,000 cars from the road. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that the program will save municipalities and residents millions of dollars each year, estimating the cost savings for Denver alone at $16.3 million by 2035.

As part of its implementation, the program will develop a list of what items all Coloradans can or cannot recycle and a detailed plan that will set the fee producers will pay for their packaging. CoPIRG and Environment Colorado will work to ensure the producer fee is higher for any packaging that is not easily recyclable, incentivizing a move away from materials such as plastics that take hundreds of years to break down. The Circular Action Alliance will be responsible for developing and maintaining the program now that Wednesday’s vote has authorized it.

In response, Environment Colorado and CoPIRG experts said the following:

“To protect our environment and reduce pollution, we need to cut out unnecessary packaging, especially when it’s made of plastics,” said Henry Stiles, advocate for Environment Colorado. “Producer responsibility incentivizes companies to eliminate wasteful packaging and supports the expansion of recycling so we can reuse materials instead of mining, drilling and logging to make our bags, boxes and bottles. This is a great day for Colorado and hopefully this will encourage other states to adopt producer responsibility for packaging to help boost recycling rates and reduce waste.”

“This is a big win for recycling across the country, not just in Colorado,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Executive Director. “Over the next 10 years, this program will make recycling available to everyone in the state and more than double our recycling rates. Now, the companies that decide what type of packaging wraps our stuff will be responsible for ensuring those items get collected, recycled and reused instead of littering our communities and wasting away in our landfills. Hopefully, this policy doesn’t just expand recycling, but ultimately eliminates unnecessary and nonrecyclable packaging. We look forward to other states adopting similar policies to reduce the absurd waste we generate every day.”