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April 25, 2008

Business sector testifies against bottle bill
By Zita Y. Taitano

MEMBERS of the business community came out in full force yesterday to provide testimony in a public hearing on Sen. Tina Muna-Barnes' Bill 244 --- or "The Recycling Act of 2009."

The measure would place a deposit fee on all beverage containers no less than 5 cents.  The bill would also allow 75 percent of the deposit to be refunded to individuals who redeem the beverage containers at redemption centers. 

This morning, Muna-Barnes explained to those providing testimony and the committee on judiciary, natural resources, infrastructure, and cultural affairs that the bill was introduced because there needs to be more options with regards to recycling on Guam.

Said Muna-Barnes, "I'd like to see that we change the mindset for everyone to make recycling work here and in preference in the form of redemption, deposits and money, this bill is a component in dealing with our trash and other issues."

She said she has been very open to hearing the voice of the community and is willing to hear suggestions and solutions to the measure. 

One of the few people supporting the measure was Berrie Straatman, who felt the bill would not only help reduce waste but also encourage more recycling on island.  

Straatman also referred to the current I-recycling program which he didn't think was really doing a good job in getting residents to join the recycling bandwagon

"The I-recycle program is a good start, but can hardly be considered successful," he said, "As a frequent walker on Tumon beach, I can also attest that the I-recycle program has made absolutely no difference in the amount of trash that is left behind and littered all over this beautiful beach," he said, "The trash also includes foam plates, cups, but the majority of litter are empty beer cans and bottles. I always carry a plastic shopping bag during my walks and it is always full with aluminum cans when I finish my walk."

Also demonstrating his support is Rear Admiral William French, who in a letter, indicated that an islandwide recycling program would help alleviate "the ever increasing burden of waste stream."  French did admit in the letter that the draft form of the bill would present some legal and practical challenges in terms of participation by the Department of Defense, but he said the military is willing to continue working on the matter at hand with the senator's office.

Both Straatman and French's support, however, were overshadowed by representatives of the Guam Chamber of Commerce and other businesses who back the I-recycle program. 

They include Guam Business Partners for Recycling Inc., Anheuser-Busch Recycling Corporation, Ambros, Inc., Guahan Waste Control, South Pacific Petroleum, Perez Bros., Matson, Coco-Cola, Foremost, and Subway. Ironically, placed next to table the group provided testimony on, were several cases of aluminum canned soft drinks.

Frank Shimizu, president of Ambros Inc. and GBPR member, stressed that while Bill 244 creates a separate government fund entitled the Recycling Deposit Fund, the experiences the community surrounding any type of government account has not been pleasant. "We need only mention the Tourist Attraction Fund, Retirement Fund, Abandoned Vehicle Fund, Medical/Health Insurance Fund, Streetlight Fund and others," he said, "Including payment for utilities that have not been managed or used properly."

Shimizu also mentioned that the measure would kill the I-Recycle Program because it diverts and takes aluminum way from the 42 schools participating in the project. 

Also speaking against the measure was GBPR president Lee Babb, who after reviewing Bill 244, said that deposit laws are nothing more than an elaborate mechanism to tax beverage purchases.  "They increase costs for food stores, restaurants, clubs, bars and beverage wholesalers to create infrastructure to handle, sort, store, and transport returned containers.  These costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer in the form of higher beverage prices," Babb said.

Like Shimizu, Babb felt that the measure would hurt programs such as I-Recycle. "They divert valuable aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles from these programs, making it difficult for them to be financially viable," Babb said.


After the public hearing, Muna-Barnes said the only concern of the groups that opposed the measure was that if it was passed and signed into law, it would kill the I-Recycling Program. She stated that she didn't want her bill to impedes the program, rather the bill encourages more recycling efforts.

"It's very commendable and I really appreciate the efforts I-recycling is doing," she said.

"(But) we need to start and make sure that recycling is done not just by a few people but by everybody."

The committee, Muna-Barnes said, will now circulate a report for all members to review and she is hopeful it'll receive a favorable response.


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