MACo joined a variety of other stakeholders in opposing legislation that would create a bottle deposit program before the Senate Finance Committee on February 20. MACo cited cost concerns and the potential impact on existing recycling efforts as its primary reasons for opposing the bill.
Senate Bill 394, sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh, would impose 5 cent deposit requirement on certain beverage containers. County governments would have to establish “convenience zones” throughout each county that would contain redemption centers where a citizen could return containers. While commercial and nonprofit organizations could run redemption centers, counties would be the default operators. An operator of a redemption center would receive a 1 cent handling fee for each container the center processed.
MACo Legal and Policy Analyst Les Knapp and Prince George’s Recycling Section Manager Marilyn Rybak testified on behalf of MACo. In his testimony, Knapp stressed that the underlying goals of the bottle deposit bill were laudable but that the bill placed significant costs and financial risks on county governments and could negatively affect existing and successful recycling efforts. Knapp noted that the bill’s fiscal note estimated that county expenditures were projected to exceed revenues by more than $4.7 million annually, beginning in FY 2018. Knapp concluded his testimony by noting that there were other potentially better ways to increase container recycling and reduce litter than what was proposed by SB 394.
In her testimony, Rybak estimated that Prince George’s County would need to establish 34 redemption centers at a development cost of around $24 million. That figure did not include an estimated $5 million in staffing costs to maintain and audit the facilities.
The Artemis Group, Trash Free Maryland Alliance, MaryPIRG, and the Maryalnd Sierra Club supported the bill while representatives for the retailors, beverage makers, and bars and restaurants testified in opposition to the bill.