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New CO recycling bill raises questions on legality

New Colorado Recycling Bill Raises Questions on Legality

The Denver Business Journal announced last week that a new Colorado recycling bill raises questions on legality. The new bill imposes fees on packaged goods to fund a statewide free recycling system. So-called House Bill 1355, sponsored by Representative Lisa Cutter of Morrison, the bill would implement a law where companies that produce packaged materials would pay fees based on the amount of material they make and the recyclability of the packaging. 

How the new Colorado recycling bill raises questions on legality:

Additionally, it would not be the state government that would set the fees and then oversee the payment of those fees by private entities. Instead, it would be a newly created nonprofit made up of the producers that pay into the fund to establish costs on the sector and fellow patrol companies. The CO Department of Public Health and Environment stepped in only to fine noncompliant companies much as $20,000.00 a day. 

When asked about her bill, Cutter said, “We felt like it’s a shared responsibility program, so it made sense for the industry to govern themselves.”

Representative Matt Soper, R-Delta, brought up his concerns that HB-1355 brings up the potential of getting around the rules of Proposition 117. Proposition 117 is a law that requires enterprises created by the state to go for approval at a statewide election when the organization raises more than $500,000.00 in its first five years. 

In March, some alcoholic beverage makers like Molson Coors Beverage Co. and Colorado Brewers Guild said in a letter to legislative leaders the fee as a “new tax” administered by a non-governmental entity has no accountability to taxpayers but is required to raise funds for and then pay the haulers responsible for offering public recycling services. 

Rachel Beck, Executive Director of the Colorado Competitive Council, says, “We are hard-pressed to find an example in Colorado or elsewhere that grants a private nonprofit such broad authority to set spending, fees, regulatory policy, and compulsory membership.”

Proponents note that it’s common for producers, including companies like Molson Coors, to pay much of the costs of recycling programs in other countries. They also argue that it’s appropriate to make the firms that produce the waste now be the ones that pay to establish programs to collect and recycle it. 

Representative Emily Sirota, D-Denver, says, “The pollution costs have been externalized for too long, and I think it’s quite appropriate that the folks who are making the trash that can be recycled do something to address it.” 

How, if at all, have the concerns of the new recycling bill been addressed?

Cutter made recent amendments to HB 1355 last week, including changes that simplified how companies that don’t want to be part of the state-chartered producer-responsibility organization can seek to set up a separate PRO. 

The bill structure is likely to take on raised importance in debate, particularly as a pair of lawsuits remain active that challenge the constitutionality of a paid-family-and-medical-leave fee approved by voters in 2020 and a quintet of new transportation fees established by the Legislature last year.

Currently, 5.8 million tons of recyclable materials are buried annually in Colorado landfills. HB-1355 marks a time of recognition by lawmakers attempting somehow to curb the current climate crisis of our time. You can read more about recent Colorado legislation that APC recently reported on here

Denver, Colorado is one of APC’s primary markets. As such, we are proud to offer ample opportunities in this bustling IT-market. Are you looking to relocate to a city that has environmental responsibility top-of-mind? Visit our job board and find the right position for you.  

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