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January 6, 2011

Pacific Daily News

Bottle bill to be revived with military support

By this summer, bottles littered across the island could be worth cash -- or at least nickels.

The last hurdle to implementing a new law mandating a government-wide recycling program was put into place yesterday, when a military official on Guam expressed support for the law.

In a press release issued yesterday, Rear Adm. Paul Bushong, commander of the Joint Region Marianas, expressed support for Public Law 30-221, creating an on-island recycling program.

"I give my commitment to work toward the military's meaningful participation in the program," said Bushong. "Participation by the base exchanges and commissaries requires a cooperative effort of various off-island military procurement offices. I will continue to work with these commands toward full participation."

Signed into law on Dec. 30, Public Law 30-221 will create a government-administered recycling program, which will allow residents to redeem beverage containers for a 5-cent deposit levied on plastic, metal and glass beverage bottles sold on Guam.

Introduced by Sen. Tina Muña Barnes, the bill aims to eliminate waste on island by 35 percent.

"This literally just heightens the awareness," said Barnes. "And now we can truly say we've stepped up to the plate as far as preserving and protecting our island."

The bill levies a minimum 5-cent fee on on-island distributors. The funds will be administered by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. Eighty percent will be provided to redemption centers to refund consumers who return bottles to the centers. The remaining 20 percent will be used for administrative costs, auditing costs and educational outreach.

Barnes said she has been trying to get a bottle bill passed for the last eight years, and is hoping the monetary refund will help make a dent in the 79 million aluminum cans imported to Guam annually to Guam.

She said she's hopeful that by July the administrative aspects of the law-- and regulations for operating a redemption center-- would be in place.

But the support of the military is critical, because the law requires a written agreement with the military commands on Guam.

While the bill allows the government to begin implementing the administrative aspects needed to run the program, the actual deposit fee won't be mandated until 6 months after the government of Guam reaches a voluntary, written agreement with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force commands, according to the bill. The agreement must provide for such deposit fees to be assessed and collected throughout Guam, including all locations both on and off federal property.

The law also requires that the fee will only be leveraged for the period of time that such voluntary agreement is in effect.

Barnes said she was adamant in getting the involvement of the military community, because so many of the island's bottles are purchased at military exchanges.

"It wouldn't be fair for us if the military wasn't engaged, because almost 60 percent of the beverage containers are bought on base," said Barnes.

Although not a formal agreement, Barnes said she took the release as a "yes" that the military would enter into such an agreement. She said the next step would be to gather stakeholders to discuss how to implement the law.

"I'm excited. I'm elated," said Barnes. "Knowing we've worked so many years, we're finally going to see it come to fruition."


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