Senate Committee Hears Bottle Bill

As reported in the Maryland Reporter, yesterday the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee heard testimony on the beverage container deposit legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh.  The bill, SB 641, would create a five-cent deposit on certain types of beverage containers sold in Maryland and requires local governments to license or operate redemption centers to collect empty bottles and return deposit money.  While proponents shared how the program could increase recycling of beverage containers, which make up approximately 4% of the solid waste stream, others questioned the impact of the program on existing recycling programs, that handle all types of recyclable materials.

Central to the opposing argument is the assertion that the initiative is outdated and, essentially, trying to fix a system that already works very well — curbside recycling.

“The bottle bill died a natural death in the late 80s and the reason for that was because curbside recycling came along and it has been tremendously successful,” said Jay Schwartz, a lobbyist for the Maryland Licensed Beverage Association.

MACo has opposed bottle bills in the past because of the threat they present to existing recycling programs, such as curbside pick-up and single stream recyclables, which rely in part on aluminum cans to subsidize recycling of paper, plastic, and other materials.  As described in our testimony opposing the legislation, this legislation adds to the local burden by sticking local governments with building and operating redemption centers, while potential profits from the program are uncertain.  As described,

Counties already strive to deliver successful recycling programs, to satisfy both public demand and State mandates. The sale of collected materials is a component toward paying for this service – but counties are obliged to support recycling programs through a wide range of general taxes and fees. By withdrawing the most marketable commodities from existing recycling programs (curbside pickup, single stream, etc.), SB 641 would orphan the massive infrastructure investment made in these programs, as well as oblige even larger taxpayer subsidies to cover costs for a reduced material stream.

Marilyn Rybak, Recycling Section Manager for Prince Georges County and James Pittman, Deputy Director of Anne Arundel County’s Waste Management Services joined MACo at the testimony table and shared their concerns about the legislation and the potential impacts on their local recycling services.

For further information, see MACo’s complete testimony, or our prior related posts, Statewide Bottle/Can Deposit Proposed, Bottle Deposit Bill Unveiled.
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