On Tuesday, June 5, at the Colorado Association for Recycling’s Summit for Recycling in Snowmass, Congressman Jared Polis (D) and representatives for former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy (D) and Lt. Governor Donna Lynne (D) discussed how they (or their candidate), if elected governor, would improve recycling. All candidates on the June 26th primary, including Republicans and Democrats, were invited to participate.
Polis, Kennedy and Lynne all want to work to make Colorado a leader in Recycling
Colorado currently only recycles and composts 12 percent of its waste compared to the national average of 34 percent. We are one of the most wasteful states in the country, producing more than 35 million pounds of trash every day (enough to fill one garbage truck every minute of every day).
Polis said, “We can do better. I’ll make sure we catch up and surpass other states.”
State Senator Mike Merrifield representing Kennedy said, “Colorado should and could become a leader in recycling. We’re missing out on an opportunity.”
Former gubernatorial candidate Eric Underwood spoke on behalf of Lynne and said, “Donna wants to keep Colorado beautiful for generations to come. She has plans to support bag fees and conservation and recycling efforts in communities around the state.”
Candidates offered different approaches to increasing recycling in Colorado
Congressman Polis committed to working with the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to develop end markets. This is an important first step. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the state is burying $265 million worth of recyclable material like aluminum, cardboard, paper and plastics in our landfills annually. That’s material that could be sold here in Colorado for a profit, instead of paying to have it landfilled. Across the country, recycling creates nine time more jobs per ton of waste than landfilling. Polis stated, “I want to make sure the state’s goal of recycling 45 percent of our waste by 2036 is a floor, not a ceiling.” He supports creating economic incentives over mandates to get the job done in a way that’s good for business and the environment. Polis stated he would make it a priority to provide matching funds for a western slope recycling facility. He stressed the need to develop statewide infrastructure to increase capacity. He would also create a senior level recycling coordinator position within his administration. He would build a task force to identify best practices to increase curbside recycling and determine funding and infrastructure and work with the legislature to get state matching funds.
Merrifield said Kennedy agrees with Polis on getting OEDIT to focus on building the recycling economy and suggested using grants and assistance to local communities. He went on to say that while the state has set concrete waste diversion goals, we don’t have statewide recycling legislation to reach those goals. He said as governor, Kennedy will build a coalition to meet these goals. She would collaborate with stakeholders across the state and look to state agencies for leadership in making recycling and waste management a priority. She wants to use unique local solutions and create a statewide recycling strategy that makes recycling and composting easier for communities across the state.
Underwood stated that Lynne wants to work with the state legislature and communities to provide resources. She is interested in looking for ways the state government can support local businesses, like buying hemp paper made in state instead of traditional paper from out of state. She would like to do a review of where all the waste is in state government and start with procurement practices at the state.
Candidates make connection between waste and climate
The candidates also made the important link between waste and climate. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 42 percent of our greenhouse gases comes from our stuff, from the extraction of resources to make our stuff, to the manufacturing process, transportation and finally disposal of the products we use every day. Recycling reduces greenhouse gases by saving energy and composting eliminates the manufacturing of methane, a potent greenhouse gas in landfills.
The candidates were asked how the Governor’s office could help or be instrumental in expanding the use of compost as a soil amendment to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which has been shown to be effective in research in California. Polis presented a specific plan, arguing that carbon pricing, charging emitters for the amount of carbon dioxide they produce, is the best tool to foster the use of carbon sequestration by creating a market value for carbon. The representatives for Kennedy and Lynne thought they would be supportive of using compost for carbon sequestration. ”We must recognize climate impacts. Recycling needs to be at the forefront of the climate discussion,” added Merrifield for Kennedy.