Talking Green: Colorado moves forward on waste diversion legislation
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Waste diversion is one of the easiest daily actions we can take as a community to protect the environment and fight against climate change. Sending less material to the landfill through reuse, repair, recycling and composting significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The state of Colorado has a goal of diverting 28% of the waste that we generate from the landfill by 2021. However, our current state diversion rate is 17.2%, well behind the national average of 35%. To achieve our statewide goal for diversion, several bills have been introduced this legislative session that could move the needle on reducing waste and increasing recycling.
On average, 37% of Colorado’s material going to the landfill is organic material that can be composted. House Bill 20-1047 to Develop a Statewide Organics Management Plan would promote compost use in Colorado and advance carbon reduction by using compost to enhance soil for carbon storage. Developing a statewide organics management plan would provide funds for composting infrastructure needs in rural areas, like Routt County.
Senate Bill 20-055 to Incentivize the Development of Recycling End Markets would invest in end-markets for our recyclable material in Colorado, which would bolster the demand for recycled content to make new products. This increased demand for recycled material will make recycling more economically feasible for communities of all sizes that are struggling to fund programs or that don’t have access to recycling.
Nearly one-third of all plastics are not recycled and end up polluting the environment, eventually breaking down into the microplastics that have been found in soils, wildlife and even rainwater in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are essentially no end markets for plastics No. 3, No. 6 and No. 7 and no markets for single-use plastics like straws. The other two bills moving through the Colorado legislature would reduce single-use plastics.
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HB20-1163, Management of Single-use Products, would prohibit retail stores and restaurants from providing single-use plastic carryout bags and stirrers and would require establishments to provide straws only upon request.
HB20-1162 to Restrict Food and Retail Establishments’ Use of Polystyrene would ban polystyrene food and beverage containers throughout Colorado.
If you would like to learn more about these bills or take action by sending your elected representatives an email encouraging them to vote in favor of this legislation, visit ecocycle.org/colorado-legislation. To improve your own waste reduction and recycling at home or at work, download Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Yampa Valley Recycles app at yampavalleyrecycles.org. This free resource allows you to search hundreds of items to find out where to recycle, donate or repair them locally.
Madison Muxworthy is the waste diversion director for Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.
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