Fees on cans 
of paint to pay 
for recycling

Colorado soon may follow a handful of other states to create a paint stewardship program under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Senate on Thursday.

The measure, SB29, calls on paint producers to create or enter into stewardship programs to help recycle or dispose of environmentally unfriendly latex and oil-based paints.

While the program focuses solely on paint, and only four other states have similar programs, it isn’t unique when it comes to dealing with hazardous product waste, said Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, who introduced the bill.

“Across the country, stewardship programs are becoming quite effective,” Newell said. “Thirty-two states have in fact passed 74 stewardship laws on products like batteries, electronics, carpet, fluorescent lamps and mercury thermostats, yielding tremendous jobs, environmental protection and tax savings nationwide.”

Under the bill, paint producers would charge a per-gallon fee to retailers and distributors that would be high enough to cover program costs, Newell said.

A fiscal analysis of the measure shows it would cost the state about $90,000 a year to oversee, but it is unknown what it would cost the stewardship programs to recycle the unused paint.

Though Senate Democrats rejected an amendment from Republicans to cap the fee at 75 cents a gallon, they did alter the measure to say that the fee must be high enough to cover the programs.

While that fee won’t be charged directly to consumers, they will end up paying more per gallon because the fee can be factored into the overall cost per gallon.

As a result, Republicans in the Senate said consumers will end up paying a recycling fee on a product of which little will end up in the recycling bin.

“This is a huge use tax on the citizens of Colorado,” said Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. “That is just a drop in the bucket of what our constituents are going to be charged as they buy this paint, and most of it’s on their house. This isn’t really a recycling fee, it’s a use fee. It is a use tax.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10 percent — 64 million gallons — of all paint sold in the nation ends up in landfills or recycling centers.

But doesn’t it make more sense to charge people when they need to dispose of unused paint, rather than charge them for a product that isn’t polluting the environment, asked Sen. Vickie Marble, R-Fort Collins.

“I don’t want to pay and call it a paint stewardship or recycle program when actually I bought something to use it, not to recycle it,” she said. “I can’t take the paint off my house and then take it to a recycle place.”

The bill requires a final Senate vote before it can head to the House for more debate.


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