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January 14, 2011

Pacific Daily News

Recycling goes to work

Now that Guam has passed a bottle bill creating an aluminum recycling program, the challenge facing the government will be how and when it will be implemented.

"The real work begins today," said Sen. Tina Muña Barnes at a round-table discussion for parties affected by the new legislation.

Public Law 30-221, which was signed on Dec. 30, 2010, by then-Gov. Felix Camacho, will create a government-administered recycling program. It authorizes the creation of redemption centers where residents can turn in beverage containers for a portion of a 5-cent deposit levied on plastic, metal and glass beverage bottles sold on Guam.

The funds will be administered by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. Eighty percent will be provided to redemption centers to pay refunds to consumers who return bottles to the centers. The remaining 20 percent will be used for administrative costs, auditing costs and educational outreach.

At a public discussion at the Legislature yesterday members of the community, including representatives from island recycling programs, environmental agencies and businesses brought forward their concerns.


Peggy Denney, program administrator of iRecycle, said her biggest concern was making sure that the law did not affect the ability of the iRecycle program to earn money for the school system.

"We (iRecycle) haven't been strong supporters because we felt that it would undermine this program that has such tremendous potential for benefiting the schools," said Denney. "Now everyone stands to benefit from the bottle bill if it's implemented effectively, but it could dilute the benefit to the schools."

The iRecycle program relies on donated services offered by a coalition of businesses who provide bailing and shipping services for cans collected around the island. After the aluminum cans are sent off island, the proceeds of the sale of the aluminum is sent back to Guam's public schools.

In its last shipment, iRecycle collected approximately 1 million aluminum cans, and received $24,000 on behalf of the schools. If those 1 million cans had been redeemed on island for 4 cents each -- the amount that will likely be returned to residents -- that would be about $40,000.

That would be great, said Denney. But she wanted to make sure that the benefits of the iRecycle program, such as a coordinated collection process and bins provided to the school system, would still be available to schools, especially if the bottle bill lessened incentives for schools to participate in the program.

"If iRecycle stays in effect, if it's possible to take advantage of the 4 cents a can, as well as all the services that iRecycle provides to the school, and sell the aluminum to Anheuser-Busch recycling corporation, then you could make over $60,000 per container," said Denney.

Sinajana Vice Mayor Robert Hofmann, who spoke in favor of the law at the meeting, said he was optimistic about seeing it implemented. Hofmann called the iRecycle program "fantastic" but said it was only a drop in the bucket compared to what could be done with an islandwide program.

"We want to be able to take that step where people take responsibility," said Hofmann. "We're hoping retailers, redemption sites all come on board, and really just help the people of Guam in reducing the waste."

In written testimony, Sam Walker, a researcher at UOG's Center for Island Sustainability, said the law would promote a positive impact on the island's immediate environment, promote a positive image of Guam and acknowledge the hidden, external costs of the improper disposal of recyclable materials.

"Marine debris is an issue," said Tammy Jo Anderson Taft, education and outreach coordinator for the Guam Coastal Management Program. "All of Guam is a coastal zone. Everything we drop on the land probably will end up in the ocean."

Taft said that during last year's International Coastal Cleanup, in which volunteers around the world scour local beaches and waterways for garbage and recyclables, 17,188 beverage containers were picked up from Guam shores in just one day.

If turned in for 4 cents a piece, those beverage containers would equal approximately $688.

But Taft said she would like to see concrete timelines for the new law, as well as support staff and infrastructure put in place at the Guam EPA to make sure that when it is implemented the law will succeed.

"It's a good program. It's a good idea, but we need to be realistic about what the limitations are here on Guam," said Taft.

She said Guam's geographic distance from recycling centers puts it at a disadvantage, compared to other places that have implemented bottle laws.

Paul Tobaison, president of the Recycling Association of Guam, said that he supported the law, but wanted to make sure that funds earned from the program remained dedicated to supporting it. He also said he wanted to see a higher fee levied on cans -- 10 cents instead of 5 cents.

"If it's 10 cents, 10 cans, one dollar," said Tobaison. "And 1,000 cans would be a 100 dollars. Sounds like pretty good money."


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