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Md. bill aimed at lifting UBC recycling rates

Keywords: Tags  scrap, bottle bill, UBCs, used beverage containers, Aluminum Association, Walt Clocker, Maggie McIntosh, Maryland Retailers Association Nathan Laliberte

NEW YORK — A new bill that sponsors say could raise Maryland’s recovery rates for used beverage containers (UBCs) to 75 percent will be introduced in the state’s General Assembly later this month.

The bill would introduce a 5-cent redemption incentive, encourage the establishment of redemption centers controlled by the county, and allow licensed retail stores to opt in on a voluntary basis.

If approved, the "Recycle for Real" program, to be introduced by state delegate Maggie McIntosh (R., Baltimore), would add the 5-cent deposit to the state’s existing curbside pickup program. Containers could also be returned to redemption centers for deposit, where beneficiators would clean, separate and sell material directly back to manufacturers.

Participating centers would receive a handling fee of 2 cents per container, falling to 1.5 cents after three years. The fee would serve as an incentive for redemption centers managed by the county and municipality, as well as a means of reimbursing them for the cost of establishing the redemption infrastructure.

The state comptroller would manage deposit funds and reimburse redemption centers for redeemed containers and handling fees, according to an official memo detailing the bill. The state would use any unredeemed money to fund the program and other environmental initiatives.

The legislation would also guard against the redemption of out-of-state bottles, using unique deposit marks and verification technology.

Some 4 billion containers are sold in Maryland annually, according to the bill’s sponsors, adding that the state’s recycling rate is 22 percent.

"All options should be part of the conversation" when it comes to UBC recycling, the Arlington, Va.-based Aluminum Association said in response to the legislation.

"As an industry, we have set a target to reach a 75-percent recycling rate for aluminum cans by 2015. In 2011, the can recycling rate was 65.1 percent. This is good progress, but more work needs to be done," the association said, also noting that states with strong deposit laws typically have higher recycling rates than those without such laws.

However, some remain staunchly opposed to the deposit legislation. Walt Clocker, chairman of Annapolis-based Maryland Retailers’ Association and owner of Angel’s Food Market in Pasadena, Md., is against the bottle bill because it would complicate the recycling process and confuse retailers, he said.

"We have systems where we have combined curbside recycling," Clocker said. "I am a one-store, independent grocery, and having to manually separate and sort doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to approach recycling."

Clocker also believes the primary goal of the bill is to raise capital for the state, not increase recycling percentages. "I am happy with existing recycling centers, and raising money through a bottle bill is not the right way to do things," he said.

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