Tee Cee’s Tip for Monday, Aug. 10, 2020

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Dear Tee Cee, 

I’m very interested in the legislation side of things, and I’m wondering about recycling legislation. Do we have bans on plastic items, nationally, statewide or locally? Is there some sort of policy that incentivizes people to recycle rather than landfill materials? With China now refusing to take our recyclables, have there been any laws passed that determine what happens to those materials now?

Sandy

Dear Sandy, 

Lots of good questions! Let’s break them down:

First, plastics legislation: So far there is no national or state ban on any plastic item — it’s a tough nut to crack since the plastics industry has all the lobbying power and money of the oil and gas industry. There is a bill recently introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., called the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. It would require plastic manufacturers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling material, including covering the cost of waste management. It institutes a nationwide container deposit program, bans the sale and distribution of certain single-use plastic products starting in 2022 and sets a moratorium on new plastic-producing facilities. The bill also establishes limitations on the export of plastic waste to other countries.So that’s a bill to watch.

The challenge with local ordinances is that there’s a state preemption in Colorado on plastics that makes it illegal for any municipality to restrict or ban plastics. Fourteen other states also have plastics-related preemption laws. Many recycling and environmental organizations have been trying to strike this preemption for some time, and there is some legislative momentum building to make it come to fruition both here in Colorado and elsewhere, though recent attempts were tabled due to COVID-19.

To  your question regarding policies that incentivize recycling, I’m pleased to tell you that last year Colorado passed our first major recycling-related bill: The Front Range Waste Diversion Bill. Despite our reputation as one of the most beautiful states in the union, Colorado’s recycling rate is only 17%, half of the national recycling rate. That’s due in large part to the fact that landfilling materials is extremely cheap here.

The Front Range Waste Diversion Bill puts a small fee on every ton landfilled in the Front Range, and puts that money into a fund that anyone in the Front Range can apply for to divert waste for efforts like education programs, transfer stations, recycling carts, etc.

And as to your third question about China: Just a couple of weeks ago, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law SB20-055, “Incentivize Economic Development of Recycling End Markets.” This bill works to strengthen local and domestic recycling markets so we don’t have to ship our waste across the world for it to be recycled. The bill aims to accelerate Colorado’s recycling economy by attracting businesses and entrepreneurs to Colorado to use our recyclable materials to make new products

Dear Tee Cee,

I’m very interested in the legislation side of things, and I’m wondering about recycling legislation. Do we have bans on plastic items, nationally, statewide, or locally? Is there some sort of policy that incentivizes people to recycle rather than landfill materials? With China now refusing to take our recyclables, have there been any laws passed that determine what happens to those materials now?

Sandy

Dear Sandy,

Lots of good questions! Let’s break them down:

First, plastics legislation: So far there is no national or state ban on any plastic item– it’s a tough nut to crack since the plastics industry has all the lobbying power and money of the oil and gas industry. There is a bill recently introduced by US Senator Tom Udall and US Representative Alan Lowenthal called the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. It would require plastic manufacturers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling material, including covering the cost of waste management. It institutes a nationwide container deposit program, bans the sale and distribution of certain single-use plastic products starting 2022 and sets a moratorium on new plastic-producing facilities. The bill also establishes limitations on the export of plastic waste to other countries.So that’s a bill to watch!

The challenge with local ordinances is that there’s a state pre-emption in Colorado on plastics which makes it illegal for any municipality to restrict or ban plastics. Fourteen other states also have plastics-related preemption laws. Many recycling and environmental organizations have been trying to strike this pre-emption for some time, and there is some legislative momentum building to make it come to fruition both here in Colorado and elsewhere, though recent attempts were tabled due to COVID.

To  your question regarding policies that incentivize recycling, I’m pleased to tell you that last year Colorado passed our first major recycling-related bill: The Front Range Waste Diversion Bill. Despite our reputation as one of the most beautiful states in the union, Colorado’s recycling rate is only 17%, HALF of the national recycling rate. That’s due in large part to the fact that landfilling materials is extremely cheap here.

The Front Range Waste Diversion Bill puts a small fee on every ton landfilled in the front range, and puts that money into a fund that anyone in the Front Range can apply for to divert waste  for efforts like education programs, transfer stations, recycling carts, etc.

And as to your third question about China: Just a couple of weeks ago, Gov. Polis signed into law SB20-055, “Incentivize Economic Development of Recycling End Markets.” This bill works to strengthen local and domestic recycling markets so we don’t have to ship our waste across the world for it to be recycled! The bill aims to accelerate Colorado’s recycling economy by attracting businesses and entrepreneurs to Colorado to use our recyclable materials to make new products — good for the environment, good for Colorado’s economy.

Colorado has historically been pretty behind in terms of recycling, but there is a lot of work being done now to move the state from a recycling laggard to a leader, and more legislative efforts are on the horizon. Learn how you can keep up to speed and support these actions at ecocycle.org.

Tee Cee

Have Zero Waste questions? Rosie@ecocycle.org has answers.



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