Colorado residents could see more bottles, newspapers and cartons rolling down conveyor belts at recycling centers in about three years once a new state program is in place, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Since the passing of House Bill 22-1355 or the Producer Responsibility Program for Statewide Recycling Act in June, Darla Arians was hired by CDPHE as the producer responsibility lead in September. This role was established to coordinate the program at the state level. In addition, the state health department formed a Producer Responsibility Advisory Board in October, which includes stakeholders in the areas of local government, recycling facilities, manufacturing, and retailers associations. The main function of this board is to advise and consult the Producer Responsibility Organization.
According to CDPHE, this nonprofit organization will be funded and managed by producers who sell packaging and paper in Colorado. It will also be responsible for covering 100% of the costs of consumer recycling and statewide access to recycling.
This will hopefully not only benefit Coloradans, but also recycling centers across the state including Boulder County Recycling Center, advocates of House Bill 22-1355 have said.
Boulder County Recycling Center is a public, nonprofit material recovery facility that was established in 2001 and has been waiting on legislation to improve Colorado's feeble recycling rate of 13%. Before the existence of a county-owned recycling organization, a nonprofit called Eco-Cycle commanded the recycling landscape in Boulder by doing curbside collection for residents starting in 1976. At the time, it was one of the first curbside recycling nonprofits in the country and was comprised of all volunteers.
Eco-Cycle was able to collect an estimated 55,000 tons of recyclables per year on average with this system, according to Eco-Cycle legislature and community campaign director Randy Moorman. Once Eco-Cycle partnered with Boulder County in 2001, the center was formed, funded by a tax for Boulder residents.
Now, after over 20 years in a partnership with the county, "An increase in recyclable products is [still] one of the goals," Randy Moorman states. But, more specifically, "The outlook is producer responsibility. It's having more of the manufacturers of these products take responsibility and help pay for these systems so there is equity, and everyone has access."
"Canada and Europe have been doing it for decades, so it's not a new concept."
With oversight from CDPHE, the Producer Responsibility Organization for Colorado will be tasked with proposing and implementing a program plan to increase Colorado’s recycling rate by 2030 and 2035.
However, there are some who are concerned about how extended producer responsibility will affect Colorado. Christopher Howes, the president of the Colorado Retail Council as well as the retailers association seat on the Producer Responsibility board, has concerns about how the program could impact retailers, who are defined as "producers" in the bill. Though his group was not opposed to the concept of EPR, "we thought that the bill before it was amended was not [efficient]."
He hopes people realize that the costs of products would likely increase under a producer responsibility program, as the economic burden of product disposal would fall on retailers.
The first Producer Responsibility Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 26, and is being held virtually. Members of the public are welcome to observe the meeting and provide public comment 11:45-11:55 a.m., according to CDPHE. Registration is required.
Looking to that first meeting, Chris aims to gather information and opinions from his members and have those views be represented in the discussion.
Pertaining to Colorado Springs, funds were granted by the state in June 2022 to collect data on the waste landscape of the city. This includes how much total garbage residents and businesses produce and how many waste haulers operate in town.
CDPHE developed a timeline and a frequently asked questions page with more info on the new program that can be found at https://cdphe.colorado.gov/hm/epr-program.