Colorado's legislature, on May 11, became the third state in the country — and the first in 2022 — to pass producer responsibility legislation for packaging, including plastics.
If signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the legislation would set up a system that would have companies pay much more to support recycling in the state.
And for plastics, it could mean significantly higher fees than for other packaging materials, according to estimates presented by supporters of the legislation.
The Association of Plastic Recyclers in a May 18 statement called producer responsibility legislation a "crucial policy tool" and urged Polis to sign the bill, after the state Senate voted 21-14 in favor of it May 11, clearing the last legislative hurdle.
"There is not enough plastics collected for recycling in the U.S. to meet the growing regulatory and corporate commitments to use more recycled plastics to make new products," APR said.
"Many plastic recyclers across the U.S. are not operating at full capacity and need more material to meet the demands for recycled resin," APR said. "This policy is greatly needed to increase the supply of recycled plastics to meet existing and future manufacturing needs."
While many details remain to be worked out, supporters called it a major step to try to improve the state's 15 percent recycling rate and build infrastructure to support collection and reuse of more glass, aluminum, paper and plastics packaging.
In a statement, the group Environment Colorado said it would require companies to provide more financial support for recycling programs.
"For too long, manufacturers of plastic have put the responsibility of dealing with plastics — recycling and disposal — on the shoulders of individuals and local communities," said Rex Wilmouth, senior program director. "Now, when manufacturers are held responsible for the plastics that can't be reused or recycled easily, they'll stop producing so much of it in the first place."
If signed by Polis, the bill would set up a roughly three-year timeline for implementation. It would require Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment to designate a nonprofit organization to manage a statewide program, funded by annual dues paid by companies, by mid-2023.
It sets timelines for conducting a needs assessment and for the nonprofit to present a plan to the state and an advisory board by Feb. 1, 2025. The group would also develop a list of covered materials and set minimum recycling targets for 2030 and 2035.
Eco-Cycle, a recycling materials recovery facility in Boulder, Colo., said the legislation is backed by 65 local governments and large consumer brands including Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone, Unilever and Walmart. It predicted the bill would improve the state's recycling programs with "no additional costs to local governments or consumers."
Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle's policy director, said the legislation can help deal with supply chain disruptions, climate change and plastic pollution.
"This policy will make it easy for all Coloradans to recycle more plastics, aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard, and printed paper," she said, in a statement. "It will also help manufacturers and businesses by creating a more resilient domestic supply of recycled materials to make new products."