Paper industry sets example for future recycling policies
The April 7 column, “Producer responsibility can turn waste into a resource,” fails to consider that all materials are not recycled at the same rate.
In Colorado, roughly five times more paper by weight is recycled annually than plastic, glass, and aluminum combined. And nearly 50% of residents have access to curbside recycling, while 61% have drop-off recycling access. Nationwide, the paper industry recycles about 50 million tons of recovered paper every year — totaling more than 1 billion tons over the past two decades. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies, like Colorado’s HB 22-1355, seek to squeeze different materials under one regulatory umbrella with the misguided expectation that all will be improved as a result. Instead, EPR could jeopardize Colorado’s paper-recycling achievements.
As we and others told the Energy and Environment Committee in early April, Colorado lawmakers should look to the paper industry as a model to improve recycling rates for other materials. In recent decades, our industry has invested billions of dollars to enhance recycling and manufacturing systems. And we have already committed around $5 billion in manufacturing investments by 2023 to continue the best use of recycled fibers in our products — that’s nearly $2.5 million per day in sustainability investments.
The outcomes already delivered by these investments speak for themselves. Today, our nation’s recycling infrastructure is so efficient that the recycling rate of cardboard — the paper material most likely impacted by EPR policies — is 89%. That’s an outstanding achievement, which is nearly impossible for new regulations to improve.
Policies that curb pollution and strengthen recycling infrastructure are crucial. However, current EPR policies could imperil the paper industry’s historic recycling progress. Lawmakers in Denver should consider the recycling achievements of the paper industry instead of shoehorning disparate materials into a single policy bucket.
American Forest & Paper Association