Baltimore Harbor Watershed Association Meeting Minutes
Report on Maryland Bottle Bill meeting, Saturday, Feb. 10, at the office of Harbor Watershed Association in
Why do we need a bottle bill? Anyone who is interested in the litter crisis in our watershed—in the streets, in Creek, the Anacostia, the Potomac--knows that curbside recycling alone is not stopping the littering of beverage containers—plastic, aluminum, or glass. More than 16 billion such containers have already been landfilled, incinerated, or littered so far this year in the (according to the Container Recycling Institute). States with a bottle bill, such as , have much less litter. We need every option available to provide incentives for people to not toss their beverage containers out the car window, into the brush, etc. The cleanup costs, demoralizing blight, and toxins released into the water are too significant.
The meeting: About 17 people from the region met with State Delegate Pete Hammen to discuss the HB 839 Bottle Bill that Hammen has proposed and that will now receive a hearing already on Wednesday, March 7th. The Harbor Watershed Association hosted the meeting; they are on the Harbor and have taken dramatic action with their Harris Creek Debris Collector (trash boom) to raise awareness about the litter in the harbor. After the meeting, we took a short walk over to look at it. Please see this link for more information and pictures: http://www.baltimorewaters.org/current_initiatives/trash_netting_system.htm.
It’s been in place since last March and they have collected 16 tons of trash since then. The project is funded for 5 years, at a cost of $30,000 per year. They are planning about 5 more of these in the harbor.
Back to the meeting: This was the first meeting to get interested folks together to support a Maryland bottle bill, which Hammen proposed only 2 months ago. I was impressed with his commitment to this as “the right thing to do for Maryland.” Pat Franklin, from the Container Recycling Institute (informative website: http://container-recycling.org/), a nonprofit based in , was there to give the benefit of her 30-year expertise on bottle bill issues. Other attendees included two from , including a City Council member and a Citizens Recycling and Environmental Advisory Committee member; grad student activist reps from Citizens Using Resources Better (C.U.R.B.); Baltimore City Planning; Community Foundation; Chesapeake Bay Foundation; and bottle bill activists. The Anacostia Watershed Society representative couldn’t make it and Tracy Bowen of Alice Ferguson Foundation did not show. Pat Franklin remarked that this was a good preliminary turnout but also stressed the major battle ahead and the difficulty of fighting the powerful and well-funded opposition of manufacturers, distributors, etc. She stated that some of the opposition in the past is no longer here and some have reversed their stance to support a bottle bill (e.g., Owens-Illinois). She said that some container manufacturers actually support a bill but because of beverage manufacturers can’t come out and say it. Her advice was to know opposition and have a very dedicated sponsor, with a broad-based coalition, and at least one group that will be the leader.
The proposed deposit will be 5 cents, with the rationale that it is easier to get a bill with this amount passed and then do an amendment later for a larger sum. They want each county to have at least one redemption center, and hopefully some retailers will have their own operation. Stores will have to keep track of deposits (with 2-cent handling fee), which should be easy for the chains with barcoding already in place. The redemption center need not be the recycling center. Refillables might be exempt from the law.