March 16, 2011
Maine bottle bill on tea party's chopping block?
Members of the Maine Legislature and the state's tea party-backed governor have been seriously looking at repealing or trimming a number of environmental protection measures ever since the 2010 elections. Among them is the state's 33-year-old bottle bill.
Maine lawmakers, like those in other New England states, have filed a number of measures that would modify the state's bottle bill, including an abandoned attempt that would have repealed it outright, according to local media accounts. In part, the efforts to modify the bottle bill are in response to concerns from beverage distributors that the collection system, which attaches a 5-to-15 cent deposit to many beverage containers, lends itself to fraud and inefficiency.
One bill introduced would reduce the number of pickups beverage distributors would have to make to a redemption center. Under current law, distributors must pick up all the empties from a retailer when making a delivery. The proposed bill, which is backed by the Maine Beverage Association, would require pickup once a store had generated$750 worth of containers, or once a month.
Another legislator has filed a bill that would form a study group to look into repealing the bottle bill and replacing it with a comprehensive curbside recycling program, similar to what Delaware recently did, and another measure currently being considered in Vermont. This approach faces resistance from the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), which argues on its website that replacing the deposit collection system could imperil as many as 1,500 jobs, reduce recycling rates and produce more litter.
Two other bills have also drawn concern from the NRCM. Under current law, larger containers, such as wine and liquor bottles, have a 15-cent deposit, which would be repealed with by another legislative proposal. A similar bill would exempt all bottles over 28 ounces from deposits. The council argues that removing the deposit would create more litter and more of the containers would end up in the waste stream.
All the bills could be considered by a legislative committee later this month or in April, reports The Portland Press-Herald.