Landmark bill introduced to transform Colorado’s recycling system

Producer Responsibility policy will provide recycling to all Colorado residents, reduce unnecessary packaging, and build more resilient domestic supply chains to ease supply chain disruptions for Colorado businesses. 

DENVER - Building on successful programs in dozens of countries and action in states like Maine and Oregon, a bipartisan team of Colorado legislators introduced a producer responsibility bill, HB22-1355, that will transform Colorado’s dismal recycling system, reduce plastic pollution, and help strengthen local economies. By providing all residents with convenient recycling, this bill will dramatically cut down on the 5.9 million tons of valuable materials that waste away in landfills and instead collect and distribute those aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastics and more back into the supply chain to be made into new products. 

Colorado recycles just 15% of its waste, less than half the national average, largely because a lack of easy access by many residents to convenient, affordable curbside recycling services, Colorado landfills recyclable material could have been sold for over $100 million and used by businesses to reduce the impact of supply-chain challenges by creating a reliable source of paper, metal, plastics and glass to make new products. 

“People believe we have a green state, and are shocked to hear how low our diversion rates are,” said State Representative Lisa Cutter, one of the sponsors of HB22-1355. “This bill will protect our climate, create an easier and more consistent system of recycling throughout the state, and contribute to creating a circular economy. We've been laggards in this area and this will give us the opportunity to be leaders."

“HB22-1355 will benefit our beautiful state’s environment, our businesses with a diversified and resilient supply-chain and finally our families who will benefit from free recycling services,” said State Senator Kevin Priola, one of the senate sponsors.

The Colorado Producer Responsibility bill, HB22-1355, would transform Colorado’s waste and recycling system by requiring producers to pay into a fund based on the packaging around their products, whether that packaging is cans, bottles, boxes, containers, shrink wrap or other material. The dues paid would fund an expansion of recycling infrastructure so that everyone in Colorado would have easy access to recycling at no additional cost to them or taxpayers, and businesses would gain access to a reliable source of recycled materials like glass, aluminum, and paper from our recycling bins.   

Right now, taxpayers and local governments are on their own to figure out recycling programs,  resulting in an inconvenient, inconsistent and largely inequitable set of programs with much higher costs in rural areas and dozens of communities where curbside recycling does not exist. Local government leaders from the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA) are in strong support of producer responsibility, offering a way to reduce costs for local governments, remove barriers for consumers, and expand recycling services and access for everyone. 

"My constituents across Jefferson County, whether they live in cities, towns, suburbs, or rural areas, want to recycle," said Jefferson County Commissioner Andy Kerr. "This industry-, local government-, and environmentalist-supported program will help us make sure that recycling is as easy to access as trash pickup. It's good for taxpayers, business, and the environment."

"Coloradans living in apartments and other multi-family buildings often have a tougher time accessing some basic community services like recycling," said Westminster City Councilor Obi Ezeadi. "This Producer Responsibility program, with broad support from industry, local governments, community groups, and environmentalists, solves that."

"People across Colorado want to recycle, but access varies widely." explained Clear Creek County Commissioner and Colorado Communities for Climate Action President George Marlin. "In rural Colorado it can be even more expensive and difficult. Much of the business community wants to do its part in ensuring Colorado has convenient, reliable access to recycling no matter where they live. Let’s let them."

At the event, a coalition led by Recycle Colorado unveiled a new campaign website,, and highlighted the important impact this policy would have for businesses and the environment. For example, recycling just one ton of materials saves three tons of carbon pollution, and recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing in Colorado provide over $8 billion in economic benefits to the state, despite the low recycling rate. 

"As an innovative and rapidly-growing plastics recycler in Colorado, we are challenged by not getting enough local feedstock of recycled plastic to make into our compounded products,” said Adam Hill, Owner of Direct Polymers and a member of Recycle Colorado. “We oftentimes have to bring materials in from many states away to meet our production needs, when much of that feedstock is available right here in Colorado. HB22-1355, Producer Responsibility, will jump-start recycling in Colorado and it will get recycling services to every Coloradan. That will mean a larger, more consistent stream of plastic scrap that we can bring in, reprocess, and sell to local and regional manufacturers." 

HB22-1355 is based on successful producer responsibility programs across Canada and Europe that have resulted in recycling rates of 70-80%. The bill has been tailored to fit with Colorado’s unique waste and business environment. Recycle Colorado and coalition partners engaged in a nine-month stakeholder process conducting at least 70 broad group and 1:1 meetings to craft a bill to best fit the needs of Colorado’s diverse communities.

If passed, the bill would create a new nonprofit industry association made up of the companies that pay into the system. Those companies are most often the brand name on the product. Globally, over 100 leading businesses have endorsed the idea of producer responsibility and these companies have participated in similar programs in Canada for decades.  

That association would be responsible for funding and managing a coordinated statewide recycling system that builds off and expands upon existing local infrastructure and service providers. The program will be overseen by a diverse advisory council that includes local governments, private service providers and haulers, and environmental voices. The producer responsibility program would need to be approved by CDPHE.  

“We are excited to see this 9-month process of over 70 stakeholder meetings result in HB22-1355 being introduced yesterday. Recycle Colorado members knew it was going to take a Colorado specific solution to transform our recycling system,” said Randy Moorman, Vice President of Recycle Colorado and Eco-Cycle’s Director of Legislative and Community Campaigns. “With our low recycling rates and supply chain woes, now is the time for Colorado to be a leading state and pass Producer Responsibility–a policy that will expand recycling access and equity, cut climate pollution, and provide a steady supply chain of recyclable materials for Colorado manufacturers.”   

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Energy and Environment committee on Thursday, April 7th at 1:30pm. 

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