Governor signs bill to boost recycling and spur economic development

Measure helps Colorado attract recycling businesses, investors and entrepreneurs, create local jobs

As we continue to face a global pandemic, the Colorado legislature took a bold measure and passed legislation to boost recycling in the state and create local jobs. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, manufacturers have been demanding more recycled feedstock and they need more of it sourced nationally and locally. Colorado is currently a small contributor to the recycling economy--only recycling and composting 17% of its municipal solid waste (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 2018)--less than half the national average of 35%. This bill seeks to change that.

SB 20-055, Incentivize the Development of Recycling End Markets, sponsored by State Senators Kevin Priola (R-Adams County) and Tammy Story (D-Boulder, Denver, Gilpin, Jefferson Counties) and State Representatives Lisa Cutter (D-Jefferson County) and Jeni James Arndt (D-Larimer County) aims to accelerate Colorado’s recycling economy by attracting businesses and entrepreneurs to Colorado to use our recyclable materials to make new products.

Governor Jared Polis signed SB20-055 into law on Wednesday, July 15. Watch the video

“Coloradans are literally throwing away tens of millions of dollars’ worth of recyclable materials every year,” said Randy Moorman, Community Campaigns Director for Eco-Cycle and Co-Chair of Recycle Colorado’s Policy Committee. “We could attract businesses to the state to reuse and remanufacture our discards into new products. This will create more local recycling jobs and help rebuild our state’s economy from COVID-19.”

What the Incentivize the Development of Recycling End Markets law will do:

  1. Through a stakeholder process, set up a structure and governing guidance for a Recycling End Market Development Center to support the development and expansion of end market businesses;
  2. Direct the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) to conduct a study and create policy recommendations for how product manufacturers could play a larger role in designing, managing and financing programs for end-of-life management of their products and packaging; and
  3. Require CDPHE to conduct a statewide campaign to educate Colorado residents about recycling through social media, television and radio announcements, and printed materials.

Currently, Colorado lacks local recycling markets for most major recyclable materials. Nearly all of the paper, metal and plastic that Colorado collects for recycling is shipped out of state, or even out of the country, before being made into new products. The cost of transporting recyclable materials is a significant burden on local communities, especially in rural areas, and according to CDPHE, one of the biggest obstacles to expanding recycling programs around the state.

“Our lack of recycling is a lost economic opportunity, especially as we look for ways to recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn,” added Moorman. According to CDPHE’s 2016 Waste Plan, Colorado buries nearly $265 million worth of recyclable materials each year, including aluminum, cardboard, paper, glass, and plastic in our landfills.

Brandy Moe, Recycle Colorado’s Policy Committee Co-Chair said, “SB20-055 will help Colorado play a larger role in the recycling economy. The new Recycling End Market Development Center will attract new businesses to the state and create jobs for Coloradans by creating incentives for manufacturers to incorporate recycled materials into their products.”

“This End Markets bill has an added benefit to our state. By developing a more circular economy in Colorado, we will increase the demand for recycled materials, in turn raising their value and make recycling more economically viable, which will result in more materials diverted from landfills,” added Kristin Kim Haynes, Executive Director of Recycle Colorado. “Moreover, it will help resolve some of the financial and logistical transportation hurdles businesses currently have.”

SB20-055 started in the Zero Waste and Recycling Interim Committee where it went through a robust stakeholder process. Committee members listened to industry experts including the director of South Carolina’s successful End Market Development Center. They also traveled the state learning about the need to develop end markets in Colorado.

State Senator Kevin Priola was a member of the interim committee and a driving force behind the bill. “I’m very proud of SB20-55. It’s bi-partisan legislation that addresses three concerns I hear from constituents. By encouraging job creation, protecting the environment & finally reducing the amount of trash dumped in eastern Adams County, SB20-55 will improve the lives of folks in our entire state,” said Priola.

“Our state recycling rate is far below the national average,” stated State Representative Lisa Cutter, one of the key champions of the bill and the chair of the interim committee. “SB 20-055 will help Colorado seize an economic opportunity and begin to establish us as a regional recycling hub. This is smart for the environment and smart for the economy.”

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