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Bottle Deposit Bill Held for Amendment

A bill to establish a mandatory container deposit law in the territory was held in committee Friday for further amendment. The bill [31-0316] is one of three proposed by Gov. Kenneth Mapp to help extend the lives of the territory’s landfills and reduce litter. The other two include bills to ban plastic grocery bags, to give deposits on cans and bottles, and to institute a comprehensive recycling and composting system in the territory.

The plastic bag bill was voted out of committee in June and will be heard in the Rules and Judiciary Committee next. The recycling and composting bill was previously held for further amendment. (See Related Links below)

Senators heard new testimony in opposition to the measure from bottling industry lobbyist Kevin Dietly, with Northbridge Environmental Consultants in western Massachusetts, but appeared to hold the bill more to learn about proposed amendments than because they were persuaded by Dietly’s opposition.

Dietly argued that comprehensive recycling programs were more cost effective and more effective overall than deposit laws because deposits are costly for stores and distributors to implement and only affect a portion of the waste stream.

He said deposit laws had gone out of fashion as more recycling programs became active, saying that of 10 states with such laws, "the most recent was Hawaii in 2001 and before that, California, in 1986.”

"Many of the states that have considered deposit laws since the late 80s have rejected them because the felt it would be more effective and sustainable to focus on comprehensive recycling and not just one aspect of the waste stream," Dietly said.

He also raised concerns over fraud, over the cost to stores of setting up reverse vending machines and lost efficiency for distributors who have to bring containers back for recycling.

Testifying over the phone, Susan Collins, president of the Container Recycling Institute in Culver City, Calif., disputed some of what Dietly said, saying 10 new deposit laws have been established worldwide since 2001. She also said Hawaii’s deposit law was put into effect in 2005, not 2001, and that several states, including California, had expanded their deposit laws in recent years.

According to Collins,  deposits increase the efficiency of recycling because it provides an uncontaminated stream of material.

"All recycling is not the same, Collins said. "There is always cross-contamination when you mix materials together, and that is one of the things that makes deposit programs so successful is they keep the materials separate," she said.

The deposit also greatly reduces litter, she said, adding that the Canadian deposit law is called the "Litter Act" and the California law is called "the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Prevention Act."

Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly castigated Dietly, saying that his coming here on behalf of the bottling industry and "thinking that will slam the brakes on this bill and you can go back to your soda pop industry, … it’s an insult to the people of this territory."

Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dawn Henry, Waste Management Authority acting Executive Director Steve Aubin and others testified strongly in support of the bill.

"We fully support this bill in this form," Aubin said. "We firmly believe this is going to be a very big help in reducing litter as well as reducing what is going into the landfills," he said, adding that the landfills are reaching their capacity and will need to be closed at great expense.

Sen. Jean Forde raised concerns about the impact of the bill on small businesses and also said he had just gotten proposed amendments and would not be willing to approve the amendments before getting more time to look them over.

Rivera-O’Reilly moved to send the bill on to the Rules Committee for amendment but her motion died for lack of a second.

Forde moved to hold the bill until the call of the chair. Voting to hold the bill were Forde, Sens. Clifford Graham and Almando "Rocky" Liburd. Voting no were Rivera-O’Reilly and Sen. Marvin Blyden. Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Neville James were absent.

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