Architectural Paint Stewardship Act survives repeal effort
To most observers, the Architectural Paint Stewardship Act is an example of a governmental initiative done right. The Act created a paint take-back program that incentivizes the responsible recycling of household hazardous waste, saves taxpayer money and provides low-cost, recycled paint to low-income families in Colorado. The program provides the win-win-win outcome that is often so elusive in today’s politics. Despite the benefits, the program was recently targeted for repeal. However, thanks to the advocacy of the program’s proponents, that repeal effort failed in the Colorado Senate.
The Paint Stewardship Program was originally proposed by the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) and was officially ratified by the Colorado Legislature in 2014. The program instituted a fee on the sale of new paint to help fund the costs associated with the ethical recycling of latex paint, a hazardous waste that can result in dire environmental and public health impacts when not properly managed. At the time it was proposed, the model for the program had already been proven successful in other states. PaintCare, a nonprofit organization, was chosen to oversee the program under the supervision of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. PaintCare currently works with 157 year-round drop-off sites and eight paint recyclers throughout the state.
“The paint stewardship model simply makes sense,” said CAFR Policy Vice President and Policy Committee Chair Randy Moorman. “It asks consumers to take responsibility for the full lifecycle of the paint they purchase, instead of just shifting that responsibility and cost to the taxpayer. If we are to have a state that utilizes our resources to the fullest, we need to tie our purchasing to the impacts of waste and support what is ultimately sustainable.”
By most measures, the Paint Stewardship Program has exceeded expectations. In just two years, the program collected 1.6 million gallons of paint. It also vastly expanded access to paint recycling in the state. Currently, 93 percent of Coloradans live within 15 miles of an authorized drop-off site. Furthermore, by assigning the financial burden of the program to the paint manufacturers and consumers, the program saves city and county governments the expense of recycling or disposing of this hazardous material. It is estimated that this saves the taxpayer approximately $6.8 million per year. The paint collected through the program provides a supply of discounted paint for economically disadvantaged property owners. Many of the participating paint recyclers have also donated significant amounts of recycled paint to nonprofits and local governments.
Despite these positive impacts, Senator Kevin Lundberg and Representative Kim Ransom recently proposed Senate Bill 18-045 to categorically disband the program. The justification given for the repeal centered on concern that the model negatively impacts the sale of new paint.
Moorman disagrees with this contention. “There is no evidence that the program has reduced paint sales. Colorado is one of eight states that have implemented the model. None of these states have experienced lower sales. In fact, overall paint sales have increased between two to three percent annually,” said Moorman. “We need smart government; we need policy proposals and decision making based upon data and evidence. In this case, the evidence clearly shows the overwhelming impacts of the program have been positive for Colorado. Let’s not mess with a good thing.”
In response to SB18-045, a coalition of program advocates came out against the repeal measure. Along with CAFR and PaintCare, Colorado Counties Incorporated, the Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Association of Public Health Officials and Conservation Colorado all spoke out to defeat the bill. In the end, the bill was successfully killed.
Waste diversion in Colorado currently lags far below the national average. “We need to look for ways to promote recycling and resource conservation, not sabotage our current efforts,” said CAFR Executive Director Laurie Johnson. “Thankfully, we had a number of organizations willing to speak out in defense of the Paint Stewardship Program. In the end I’m thankful our elected officials recognized its value to our state.”