Today, just 13% of plastic packaging in the U.S. gets recycled. In Colorado the situation is even more dire – a statewide recycling rate that is half the national average.
That is unacceptable. As producers and users of packaging, we can play a leading role to boost recycling rates and keep recyclable materials out of nature.
We are designing our bottles and cans to be recyclable, and our industry has been investing in improvements to optimize recycling systems. But we need to go further.
In Colorado and elsewhere, we are joining with lawmakers and environmental groups to set up systems that we operate and pay for to improve recycling dramatically and get more of our packaging back so it can be remade into new products.
Thanks to the leadership of the Colorado legislature, we are closer than we’ve ever been to realizing a system in which producers both run and fund the recycling of the packaging they put on the market.
The Colorado legislature this year passed and sent to Gov. Jared Polis House Bill 1355, a measure that puts private-sector producers in charge of paying for and running a statewide recycling system that will create a circular economy for recyclable materials.
The system endorsed by our companies and the environmental community in HB 1355 is known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a comprehensive policy that would help create a more efficient, cost-effective, circular waste management system. The proposed EPR system is based on best practices from similar programs all over the world that have led to recycling rates far higher than those achieved in our country.
Here’s how it would work: Producers of packaging and printed paper would be assessed fees based on the cost of recycling the materials they use, with incentives for better package design. A nonprofit producer responsibility organization, or PRO, would pay for and run the collection system with oversight from a state agency to ensure transparency and accountability.
That way, consumers would have expanded, convenient access to recycling and confidence in an effective system.
This bill is the strongest and most promising EPR measure introduced in the U.S. this year. It is championed by a broad coalition of national and state businesses, local governments, environmental advocates, recyclers and residents.
We represent leading companies who do substantial business in Colorado. We believe this bill is well designed; reflective of Colorado’s varied demographics, geography and markets; and responsive to the concerns of a wide range of producers, retailers and recycling entities throughout the state.
Nearly 6 million tons of recyclable material are landfilled every year rather than remade in Colorado. Those landfilled commodities have a market value of about $100 million if they were collected and made available to be remade into new products. HB 1355 will help turn that situation around.
Colorado has significant potential for environmental, economic and social benefits from increased recycling. HB 1355 will lead to savings for local governments and taxpayers, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, landfilling, and dependence on fossil fuels. It will create more jobs in the recycling sector and deliver for Coloradans who want a cleaner environment, reduced plastic use and better stewardship of materials.
HB 1355 is good policy. It allows producers like us to do our part to get back valuable packaging materials. We urge Gov. Polis to sign this landmark legislation into law to help create a circular economy and reduce waste in Colorado.
Mary Marchun is executive director of the Colorado Beverage Association, representing the state’s non-alcoholic beverage industry.
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