Sponsors of a bill requiring companies to participate in a state recycling program are set to strike a deal to exempt “legitimate” news outlets.
Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton, told Colorado Politics that a pending amendment to House Bill 1355, which was introduced late last week, will exempt most newspapers.
The latter had expressed his fears that the bill would devastate local publications.
Under HB 1355, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would select a nonprofit entity to implement a recycling program by March 2023. The bill provides that the program will be funded by annual “producer liability levies” – to be paid by producers who use packaging materials, paper products and single-use tableware for catering.
The not-for-profit entity, which would be industry-run and known as the “producers’ responsibility organization”, would set tariffs, including a minimum recycling rate, which would begin in 2028.
The bill aims to address an abysmal recycling rate in Colorado, which at 15% is half the national average, supporters say. Cutter, who discussed the bill April 1 at a press conference with co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, said part of the problem was lack of access to services recycling almost everywhere in the state, including rural Colorado.
The PRO will use “dues” funds to pay private businesses and local governments to implement recycling programs across the state, she said. Entities covered would include residences, businesses, schools, government buildings and public places, according to the bill.
Priola added that the lack of convenient and equal access to recycling is a challenge for many residents and communities.
“It’s too expensive to add recycling services,” he said, citing the cost of transporting these materials. The state needs both a reliable way to transport recycled materials and an end market for new products made from those recycled materials, he said.
Priola added that the producer responsibility approach is a “transformative way to pay for and provide convenient and efficient recycling for residents, without burdening state or local governments.” He said many local governments use taxpayers’ money for recycling, or people are charged for recycling services. The program envisioned under HB 1355 could make recycling free in many communities, though producers will end up footing the bill.
“It’s time for industries to step up and be responsible and bear the cost of the products they make to get the material back into the supply stream,” he said.
Recycling will be as easy as picking up the trash, said former state senator and Jefferson County commissioner Andy Kerr. He said his constituents want access to recycling services, but providing those options can be difficult for both residents and local governments.
Donors said that in rural communities, for example, people often drop off their waste at transfer stations, landfills or community centers, and that’s where they will also drop off recycling materials.
Westminster City Council member Obi Ezeadi said access to recycling varies by community, neighborhood and type of home. He said multi-family apartments and condos often have no or limited access to recycling. In Westminster, for example, recycling drop-off locations are underfunded and overused, and as a result only around 11% of waste is not landfilled, he said.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Ezeadi said. “We need a more convenient and less expensive solution for our city and our residents.”
Adam Hill of Direct Polymers said his company processes industrial and consumer plastics that are then resold to manufacturers, both in Colorado and across the country. The company processed 60 million pounds of plastic in 2021, Hill said. HB 1355 will revive the state’s low recycling rate and help build a stronger economy with more reliable and dependent materials for manufacturers, Hill said.
But the bill, which has been in the works for months, has its critics, including wine and beer retailers and the cannabis industry. Also opposed are the Albertsons Companies, which operates Safeway, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Press Association. He raised concerns about the bill’s effect on small state newspapers, as it requires newspapers to pay a fee for newsprint, which they say is a product and not packaging.
The bill exempts small businesses with gross revenues of less than $5 million, said Cutter, who added that it would exempt small newspapers. As for the bigger ones, Cutter told Colorado Politics the exemption she was working on would apply to the same media as defined in House Bill 1121, a measure that aims to incentivize more publicity for local media. from Colorado.
This bill, which is pending action in House Appropriations, was amended to define local newspapers as those that primarily serve the needs of the State of Colorado or a regional or local community within the State; where the content comes from primary sources related to news and current affairs; that employ at least one reporter who lives in Colorado and who regularly writes news or information about local events or other matters of local public interest; and, who disclose ownership to the public and carry media liability insurance.
The complication with the cannabis industry is that the packaging cannot be recycled due to residue in the containers. Proponents said that since cannabis packaging is federally regulated, the bill does not include materials or other materials regulated by federal requirements, such as prescription drugs or medical equipment.
House Bill 1355 is scheduled for its first hearing in the House Energy and Environment Committee on Thursday.