With the General Assembly focusing on solid waste issues in the 2013 session and perhaps beyond, below is a review of recycling initiatives that have been debated in the General Assembly in recent years.
2013 “Bottle Bill” (failed)
This past legislative session, Delegate McIntosh of Baltimore City, Chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee introduced legislation to create a container deposit system in the state. The legislation, which ultimately failed, would have added an additional fee to certain bottles and cans sold in the state which could then be redeemed by the customer. The legislation would have required counties to build redemption centers or license other retailers within their jurisdictions to administer the program. A fiscal analysis of the bill showed that local expenditures to develop redemption centers would be more than $56 million in the first two years of the program. MACo opposed the legislation, citing these start-up fees and concerns that a bottle-deposit system would threat existing recycling programs. In its testimony, MACo stating that,
By withdrawing the most marketable commodities from existing recycling programs (curbside pickup, single stream, etc.), HB 1085 would orphan the massive infrastructure investment made in [existing recycling] programs, as well as oblige even larger taxpayer subsidies to cover costs for a reduced material stream.
During debate on the legislation, stakeholders offered a view that despite the potential for gains in recovery of beverage containers (states with container deposits unsurprisingly have higher recovery rates), the effect on overall recycling success is modest — an increase of perhaps 2-3% at most.
2013 Restaurant Recycling (failed)
Also in the 2013 legislative session, Delegate Niemann of Prince George’s County introduced legislation that would have mandated recycling for bars and restaurants. A fiscal analysis of the legislation found that the legislation would increase costs for bar and restaurants, many of which are small businesses, that would be required to contract for removal of collected recyclable materials. MACo did not take a position on the legislation, which ultimately failed, with an unfavorable report out of the House Economic Matters Committee. Similar requirements for bars and restaurants, however, have been made local law in Montgomery County.
2012 Higher Recycling Goals (passed)
In 2012, Delegate Stein introduced a bill to raise the state’s recycling and waste diversion goals. The bill, which passed into law, raised the rates for county’s recycling, stating that
For a county with a population of over 150,000, the bill increases from 20% to 35% the level of the reduction of the waste stream through recycling that must be included in the county plan. . . and for a county with a population of less than 150,000, the level of reduction through recycling specified in a county plan increases from 15% to 20%, with [f]ull implementation. . . required by December 31, 2015.
A fiscal analysis of the bill showed that local expenditures may increase beginning in fiscal 2016 for four counties that were predicted to be unable to meet the increased recycling requirements by the December 31, 2015 implementation deadline, unless they could provide “adequate justification” for the shortfall. MACo initially opposed the legislation, stating that the legislation would create a new unfunded mandate and potential hardship for certain counties who may have difficulty in attaining the bill’s new recycling targets. However, MACo ultimately dropped its opposition when the bill was amended to allow smaller counties to combine their recycling rates with adjacent counties for a certain amount of time, addressing MACo’s concerns regarding the inequities in the program.
2012 Apartment Recycling (passed)
Also in 2012, Senator Pinsky of Prince George’s County and Senator Brochin of Baltimore County sponsored a bill requiring recycling in apartments and condominiums. Under the legislation, the property owner or manager of an apartment building or the council of unit owners of a condominium containing 10 or more units to provide recycling services by October 1, 2014. A fiscal analysis of the bill showed that local expenditures made to enforce the bill would be balanced by civil penalties and profits from recyclable materials from apartments and condominiums that would come to local governments. While MACo had opposed similar legislation in the past, MACo did not take a position on the legislation, which ultimately passed into law.
See previous coverage on Conduit Street:
Zero Waste in Maryland – Signals from 2013