Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Yet Another Article

This one from the Maryland Daily Record

Bill deposits strong reactions
March 5, 2007 6:44 PM
The first effort to add Maryland to the list of 11 states that require deposits on beverage containers since the 1980s is eliciting strong reaction from the groups that believe it will help keep litter out of the state’s waterways as well as from the businesses that believe it is “a poorly conceived plan.”

The House of Delegates is considering a bill that would place a 5 cent deposit on many of the bottles and cans sold in Maryland. The “bottle bill” will be heard in the Environmental Matters Committee Wednesday.

The bill is drawing opposition from many in the beverage, hospitality and retail industries, who view it as ineffective and potentially harmful to their business.

A coalition of 15 groups —including the Maryland Retailers Association, the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Beverage Association and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association — has signed on to a letter to legislators that argues that the program will be costly to the state and will not do enough to cut down on litter.

“We believe this is a poorly conceived plan that would hurt Maryland’s economy, its small businesses, and its existing recycling efforts,” the letter, also signed by Miller Brewing Co., Coors Brewing Co., and 7-Eleven Inc., reads. “Deposits are a costly and outmoded approach that hinders better, more efficient environmental solutions.”

The new bill’s lead sponsor is Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore City Democrat whose district surrounds the Inner Harbor. The legislation is being supported by groups including the Baltimore Harbor Watershed Association.

Phillip Lee, the association’s secretary, said he has been surprised by the amount of reaction that the effort has elicited. For Lee, the bottle bill is part of a larger effort to improve the health of the harbor that also includes community education and outreach. He said bottles make up about 55 percent of the trash floating in the water.

Though the Inner Harbor was historically dirty when it saw more industrial use, Lee said, its increasing residential and tourism use means that the water needs to be treated differently.

“It’s disgusting for tourists and businesses,” he said, pointing to the rapid development of Harbor East. “Millions of dollars is put into there because it’s next to the water, but if the water is filthy, then they have a problem.”

Lee said a deposit system would give people an incentive to hold onto garbage rather than littering.

However, bottles do not make up enough of the total litter in the state to merit a deposit system, according to Tom Saquella, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

He said the deposits would target less than 8 percent of litter while creating a program that would effectively increase prices and hurt retailers.

“It’s a very, very competitive industry,” Saquella said, “and we hate to see prices on our customers raised, especially if we don’t think the money is going to be used in an effective or competitive manner to really reduce litter.”

The bill, as written, would require each county to open at least one redemption center for bottle deposits. It would require deposits on metal, plastic and glass beverage containers holding less than a gallon. Businesses that sell beverages would collect deposits and send them to the state.

Deposits could be returned at redemption centers, which would get a 2 cent handling fee on every returned container. Unclaimed deposits would go into a state fund to support recycling projects.

Still, some opponents doubt that the program would create any positive cash for the state, because Maryland will essentially pay 7 cents for every 5 cent deposit it redeems. The letter sent in opposition to the bill says the measure would complicate the state’s existing curbside recycling system, which benefits from revenue from the sale of scrap.

Del. Stephen W. Lafferty, a Baltimore County Democrat who is a co-sponsor of the bill and sits on the Economic Matters Committee, said the deposit system may have some cost to the state, though he did not have final financial figures. He said he had not heard any predictions about the bill’s chances in committee.

Lafferty said he believes the program would be a good addition to the state’s recycling program.

“I think any time we can take things out of the trash stream and put them into the recycling stream we’re better off,” he said. “It’s not confined to the harbor. It’s certainly something we see in waterways everywhere and along roadsides.”

Mike Evitts, spokesman for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., said his group cleans up about 500 tons of litter from downtown each year. He said the partnership applauds any effort to reduce the amount of litter on the street.

He said curbside recycling could be more effective, because it does not require people to store something they would otherwise consider trash, but deposits are capable of reducing the urge to litter.

“If you’re holding a bottle that could be worth a couple of cents to you, certainly it’s going to make people think twice about tossing it on the ground,” Evitts said.

(Above - Proponents say requiring deposits on beverage containers would help to do away with scenes like this. Opponents argue that a deposit program would be costly to the state and would not do enough to cut down on litter.)

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