Colorado EPR bill signed into law

Colorado EPR bill signed into law

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill that establishes a statewide recycling system intended to boost recycling rates for plastic, aluminum, glass and paper.

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June 3, 2022

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed House Bill 22-1355 into law—a bill that will establish a statewide recycling system operated and funded by producers of packaging and printed paper intended to help spur a circular economy for recyclable materials.

The bill was backed by business and several environmental and recycling groups, including the Association of Plastic Recyclers, but opposed by groups including the American Forest & Paper Association and the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The legislation is designed to reduce plastic waste and improve Colorado’s recycling rate. According to a report by Denver-based Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), the 2020 recycling rate in Colorado was 15 percent—less than half the national average of 32 percent that year. The report also notes that 6 million tons of recyclable material is landfilled every year, representing a market value of about $100 million.

According to a news release announcing the signing of the bill, Colorado is the first state in the U.S. to develop an extended producer responsibility (EPR) system that makes producers responsible for financing a statewide recycling program to cover capital, operating, promotion and education costs to better collect, process and market recyclable materials.

The bill states that companies that sell consumer-facing packaging and some printed paper join a producer responsibility organization (PRO) which would then fund and manage a statewide recycling system. There are exceptions for small businesses and some highly regulated packaging, and an amendment would allow producers to submit an individual program plan as an alternative.

Unlike the packaging EPR laws passed in Maine and Oregon last year, HB22-1355’s supporters say Colorado’s program will be fully funded and managed by producers.

Supporters also say the law is the first to align behind the principles for a successful national collection system. The principles call for a system that:

  • Generates strong environmental outcomes in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner;
  • Provides convenient service to consumers;
  • Creates a financially sustainable model that producers fully fund and manage; and
  • Provides producers access to their materials.

The aim is to significantly increase the collection and sale of recyclables like bottles and cans, providing producers access to purchase recycled materials so they can be remade into new products.

“Our 100-percent recyclable bottles and cans are made to be remade and one of our industry’s highest priorities is getting them back,” American Beverage President and CEO Katherine Lugar says in a news release. “Colorado’s legislation is a promising model for creating a circular economy for recyclables and we applaud Gov. Polis for signing this legislation into law.”

Alejandro Pérez, senior vice president of policy and government affairs at the World Wildlife Fund, adds, “By matching effective waste management practices with accountability, extended producer responsibility is an essential tool to address plastic pollution. We have a lot of work to do to achieve a waste-free future, but we are one step further because of Colorado’s actions. The state is setting an example of how industry, environmentalists and policymakers can join forces to transform the way we use, reuse and recycle materials.”

According to the bill, the cost of EPR fees is built into producers’ wholesale prices and is spread across the supply chain, and supporters also say the key to the EPR measure advanced in Colorado is that it gives the packaging and paper producers a financial stake in ensuring a collection system is effective, efficient and convenient to consumers.