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January 17, 2008

Marianas Variety

Barnes to revive bottle bill
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

SENATOR Tina Muna Barnes, D-Mangilao, is seeking to revive a bill that would levy a refundable nickel deposit on beverage containers, a proposal aimed at accelerating the recycling efforts on Guam.

Under the bill, which is still in its draft form, a customer would be required to pay an extra five cents per can or bottle of a beverage. The deposit can be retrieved from any redemption center that will receive the empty beverage containers, including aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles.

"A small amount will be held back to promote recycling. This is a proven way to increase recycling and clean up the environment," Barnes said.

The bill would allow any entrepreneur to open a redemption center that will be responsible for the shipment of the recyclable beverage containers out of Guam.

Barnes yesterday sent out copies of the draft bill to stakeholders including the Guam Chamber of Commerce as well as beverage wholesalers.

"I want the affected members of the community to see the draft before I introduce it. They need to know that the Legislature is on their side and that we are not moving forward unless the entire island, including the civilian and military communities, are all on board," the senator said.

* Bottled Up *

Barnes first introduced the "bottle bill" in the 27th Legislature. The proposal, however, was bottled up, so to speak, because the civilian community could not get the military's commitment to participate in the proposed bottle recycling plan.

Civilian retailers gave the original bill a lukewarm response, worried that they would lose business to the commissaries and exchanges inside Andersen Air Force Base and the Navy Base.

Under the revised bill, titled "Recycling Act of 2009," the bottle deposit program would be fully implemented by Oct. 1, 2009. However, the bill provides a caveat that the program would not go into effect "unless and until" the military commissaries and exchanges in Guam commit to participate.

"We can't force them to cooperate; they have to do it voluntarily. Up to half of the canned and bottled beverages in Guam are sold on base from commissaries and exchanges. So the military's cooperation is critical," Barnes said.

"We can't just impose recycling deposits on sales in the civilian community because many local people are military retirees or have family members in service.   I don't want the local businesses to lose even more sales to the military retailers," she added.

Guam joins 11 other states that are now contemplating a bottle recycling system.  

Kiribati and Kosrae are among the islands in the region that have begun implementing beverage container recycling laws.

The first bottle bill was enacted in Vermont in 1953.


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