The Feb. 11 article “Bill to mandate industry-paid recycling poised to surface in Colorado House” failed to note that all materials are not created equal, nor are they recycled at the same rates. In fact, more paper by weight is recycled from municipal waste streams every year than plastic, glass and aluminum combined. And an extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy in Colorado could jeopardize a paper recycling system that is proven to work.
Paper recycling is an environmental success story that can offer lessons to lawmakers as they consider policies aimed at increasing recycling. Thanks to billions of dollars in private investments, the paper industry recycles about 50 million tons of recovered paper every year — totaling more than 1 billion tons over the past two decades. Overall, paper recycling rates in the U.S. are at extremely high levels, with the cardboard recycling rate in 2020 at nearly 89% — a rate EPR would not likely improve. In Colorado, 49.8% of residents have access to residential curbside paper recycling, while another 61.1% have drop-off recycling access. Additionally, cities like Denver are utilizing innovative technologies to recycle more, including paper cups, which can go in the recycling bin.
Environmental policies that curb pollution and strengthen recycling infrastructure are crucial, and paper products are part of the solution. But rather than pursuing an unproven system such as EPR, Colorado lawmakers should use the success of paper recycling as a model for improving recycling overall.
President and CEO
The American Forest & Paper Association
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