Paint fee close to approval, colored by partisan politics

DENVER — Unless it meets Gov. John Hickenlooper’s veto pen, Colorado residents may soon see higher fees on each can of paint they buy to help create a recycling program for leftover paint.

On a straight 38-26 party-line vote, House Democrats gave final approval to SB29 on Friday to create a paint stewardship program, to ensure that unused amounts of the potentially environmentally toxic material don’t end up in landfills and groundwater supplies.

The measure, which heads to the governor for final approval, would impose an unknown fee on each can of paint sold in Colorado stores.

The measure calls on paint producers to create stewardship programs around the state, and allows them to charge a per-can fee to retailers, who then are allowed to pass on that cost to consumers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10 percent of all paint sold in the nation ends up in the trash, leading some opponents to question why consumers have to pay a recycling fee for the remaining 90 percent that isn’t recycled.

Additionally, those opponents said there are paint recycling programs already in the state, and they work just fine.

“We have a paint recycling industry in Colorado, and the industry is making a profit. This is all happening without the government subsidy of a paint tax,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “The industry exists now, it’s working now, it’s working well now. This is a subsidy in search of a problem.”

Though there are only a handful of paint stewardship programs in other states, they are similar to other programs that recycle products with highly toxic components, such as batteries, computers and electronics.

The House sponsor of the measure, Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said it was the paint manufacturers themselves pushing the effort in Colorado and other states.

He said consumers won’t even notice the higher cost because it will amount to pennies per gallon, and ultimately will save them money because they no longer will have to pay a recycling fee on unused paint.

“What this bill really is about is the manufacturers ... who are seeking uniformity in the way unused architectural paint is handled in each state,” Fischer said. “They see this product stewardship model, a cradle-to-grave responsibility on the part of the manufacturer, as the best way, the best model that should really be adopted nationwide.”


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