Colorado EPR bill becomes law

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed House Bill 22-1355 into law. The law establishes a statewide recycling system operated and funded by producers of packaging and printed paper and is intended to help spur a circular economy for recyclables.

The legislation was backed by businesses and several environmental and recycling groups, including the Association of Plastic Recyclers, but was 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 recyclables are landfilled every year in the state, 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.

Under the law, companies that sell consumer-facing packaging and some printed paper must join a producer responsibility organization (PRO), which would fund and manage a statewide recycling system. Small businesses and some highly regulated packaging are exempted, 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.

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