The Colorado capitol building in Denver.

Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill raising landfill taxes and using the money to award waste diversion grants.

The Colorado General Assembly sent to the governor SB19-192, which creates a state entity to provide waste diversion grants in the state’s Front Range region, including the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, Elbert, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Pueblo, Teller and Weld, and the cities and counties of Broomfield and Denver.

Public entities, nonprofit groups and for-profit businesses in the Front Range can all apply for grants. The highly populated Front Range region generates about 85% of the state’s waste and is also where much of the recycling infrastructure is located.

According to the bill, the grant funds could be used for a wide variety of efforts to boost diversion, including communications, community engagement, equipment, staffing, research, policy development, supplies and more.

To fund the grants program, the legislation raises the landfill tip fee starting Jan. 1, 2020. That’s when the fee will increase from 35 cents per cubic yard disposed to 50 cents per cubic yard. Each year after that, the fee will increase by 15 cents until 2023.

According to a fiscal analysis, the increase would raise an additional $3.4 million during calendar year 2020 and $7 million in calendar year 2021.

The legislation passed the State House of Representatives on April 29 with a vote of 40-25 and the Senate on April 30 with a 22-13 vote. On May 13, the bill was sent to Gov. Jared Polis, who has yet to act on it.

The Centennial State’s recycling rate is about 12%, roughly one-third of the national average of 34%.

A report published last year said the state is headed in the wrong direction on materials recovery and called on state government and others to take steps to boost recycling there. The report was produced by recycling company Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), and it was endorsed by Recycle Colorado, the state recycling organization.

Colorado already has the Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity (RREO) Grant and Rebate Program, which provides funding to support materials diversion. The state also recently started a market development program called Colorado NextCycle.

Photo credit: Rex Wholster/Shutterstock

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