By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– While Coloradans may like to think of themselves as environmentalists, only 15% of us recycle compared to 32% nationwide. A bill by State Representative Lisa Cutter is aimed at bolstering our recycling efforts.

(credit: CBS)

“At the end of the day, every resident of Colorado would have recycling available to them for free,” said Cutter.

The bill would require businesses to foot the bill for a statewide recycling program. How much the program would cost each business would be based on how much packaging material the business uses. The idea is simple but the implementation will be complex. The bill is more than 50 pages long and, with less than two weeks left in the session, Republicans demanded it be read at length Friday evening in hopes of forcing Democrats to amend it.

Stephen Gould, owner of Golden Moon Distillery, is among those opposing it. He was planning a big expansion of his business after it was named distillery of the year in 2019. Then the pandemic hit and, Gould says, revenue plummeted almost 30%. He had just started to find his financial footing again when he heard about the bill and was floored.

“This is just a kick in the teeth,” said Gould.

(credit: CBS)

The bill calls for a study to determine what it would cost to make recycling free to every Coloradan. Based on that, a non-profit made up of impacted businesses would set the charges and operate the program, with input from an advisory board made up of stakeholders including environmentalists and waste haulers. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would be in charge of oversight and enforcement. Not only in-state but out-of-state businesses that ship products here would have to log, weigh, and report every box and bottle, and then pay so-called dues to the non-profit based on the volume and type of packaging material they use. The less cardboard they use, for example, the less the cost to them.

Cutter says Colorado sends 5.9 million tons of recyclable materials, worth $100 million, to the landfill every year, “We’re not trying to harm people, we’re trying to fix a problem.”

She says dues would likely be fractions of a penny per pound based on a similar program in Canada. Businesses with annual revenue of less than $5 million would be exempt along with restaurants, businesses that ship medical products or devices, and businesses like marijuana dispensaries that have products that contaminate the packaging material.

Representative Matt Soper suggests the bill is a legal quagmire, starting with the provision that forces businesses to pay dues to a non-profit.

(credit: CBS)

“And if you don’t pay dues, the CDPHE can come in and take your business license or fine you, which to me starts to sound like a government operation and it also sounds like the government delegated their taxing authority to a non-profit entity, which now sounds like enterprise,” said Soper.

Gould says the dues are nothing more than taxes and, as such, should be approved by voters, “This is a well-intentioned but incredibly poor-designed legislation that will bleed us.”

Even if the bill passes and the governor signs it, it is almost certain to end up in court.

Shaun Boyd