Resource Recycling News

Colorado PRO revises EPR recycling scenarios

Flags of the U.S. and Colorado

Circular Action Alliance revised its draft needs assessment to alter its modeling of recycling scenarios. | Rarrarorro/Shutterstock

At the request of the state, Circular Action Alliance revised its draft needs assessment in Colorado in response to over 100 public and industry comments.

In addition, the state received a notice of intent to file an individual program plan from RPM Eco in January 2024. Under the state’s extended producer responsibility program, producers are allowed to either join a producer responsibility organization, in this case Circular Action Alliance, or submit an individual plan showing how it will comply with EPR requirements. 

RPM Eco recycles plastic containers, including hydrocarbon and paint cans, barrels and storage totes and containers of pesticides and fertilizers. Its individual plan is due to the state and the advisory board by Jan. 1, 2025.

Circular Action Alliance revised its three proposed recycling scenarios in its draft needs assessment. The changes include creating a greater range of options for services offered in the scenarios, providing larger performance improvements in the recycling and collection rates in the medium scenario, including more components related to MRF improvements in the low scenario and addressing areas of the needs assessment by geographic region. 

In addition, it received public comments requesting updates to the proposed scenarios to support expanded drop-off services, particularly for glass and other hard-to-recycle materials, and multiple requests to remove flexible film packaging. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will now evaluate the revised needs assessment and recommend a scenario by mid-March.

In the original draft, the needs assessment used 2022 as a baseline year for recycling and then modeled improvements in 2030 and 2035 based on three sets of changes, which would result in a low, medium or high recycling rate scenario. 

In 2022, the state had a recycling rate between 22% and 28% for covered packaging from covered entities. 

The first draft noted that in the low scenario, the state could achieve a recycling rate between 32% and 38% in 2030 and between 47% and 53% in 2035; between 34% and 40% in 2030 and 51% and 57% in 2035 in a medium scenario; or between 39% and 45% in 2030 and 54% and 60% in 2035 in the high scenario.

The revised draft sets the low scenario rates at between 35% and 41% in 2030 and 48% and 54% in 2035; medium rates between 38% and 44% in 2030 and 52% and 58% in 2035; and high rates between 39% and 45% in 2030 and 54% and 60% in 2035.

The estimated system cost for each of those scenarios also changed slightly, moving up to between $130 million and $200 million in the low scenario, $160 million and $260 million in the medium scenario and $160 million and $260 million in the high scenario in 2030. 

In 2035, those scenarios could cost between $160 million and $260 million in the low scenario, $190 million to $310 million in the medium scenario and $210 million to $340 million in the high scenario.

The overall projected costs to upgrade MRF and composting infrastructure did not change between drafts. 

Public weighs in 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment received over 100 public comments on the first draft of the needs assessment. Of those, 58% expressed general support, the department noted

About 5% of comments expressed opposition or concerns, including that the improvement costs are likely to be higher than the report estimates; that the timeline is too short, as adding staff and capital resources will take time; and a lack of data.

“This needs assessment is full of gaps, having been compiled extremely quickly as mandated by the legislature,” one comment stated.

When it came to which scenario people supported, two comments were in favor of choosing the low scenario, five supported the medium scenario, including one letter which was signed by 10 groups, and three comments asked the state to choose the high scenario.

Many commenters also asked for more information, more data and more explanation of how the scenarios were modeled. The majority of item-specific comments were on the proposed minimum recyclable list, with technical concerns about why and how items on the lists were chosen. 

Next, the department will present the findings of the needs assessment to the Joint Budget Committee and recommend one of the three scenarios. If the Joint Budget Committee approves the recommended scenario, the producer responsibility advisory board and PRO will begin planning the statewide recycling system. That plan is due to the department by Feb. 1, 2025, for implementation beginning in January 2026. 

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