by Mal Leary
Advocates of Maine’s 40-year-old bottle deposit law are concerned about a proposal to lower the deposit on liquor bottles from 15 cents down to five cents. The lawmaker behind the bill says she’s simply trying to make the state law more consistent and fair.
Earlier this year the Maine legislature imposed a nickel deposit on small, single serving containers of liquor, commonly known as nips. The new requirement came in response to growing concerns about litter, and reports of the empty 50-milliliter bottles being thrown out car windows onto road sides. Republican Governor Paul LePage opposed the nips deposit bill, as did GOP Rep. Ellie Espling of New Gloucester, who is now proposing that the deposit on all liquor containers sold in the state be lowered to a nickel.
“It’s a business issue, when they are putting five on one and 15 on the other,” Espling says. And no other state in the country has two different levels for spirits.”
Espling says she expects that some lawmakers may instead propose an across the board deposit of a dime, but she believes reducing the deposit to the lower amount is a fairer approach. And she expects opposition to the bill will emerge in the next session that begins next week.
“You’re getting five cents on nip bottles you never got before, so you know at the end I think its going to be a wash,” says. “I think at the end the concern will be opening up the bottle bill.”
Espling insists that she is not trying to go after the bottle law, but advocates of the law say they are on constant watch.
“It seems to be an onslaught of attacks year after year,” says Sarah Lakeman, Director of the Sustainability Project at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “You know I am glad that this one isn’t trying to remove containers from the bottle bill but I definitely see it as another attempt to weaken it.”
Lakeman says the bottle deposit law, which first took effect in 1978, has become a part of the state’s culture, and has led the way for other recycling and waste reduction efforts. Se believes that lowering the 15 cent deposit on liquor bottles will only do harm.
Lakeman 3 “It’s the redemption centers that would suffer, and also the charities that rely on bottle drives, they would get a third of what they are used to from these liquor and wine bottles. And I just don’t see what problem they are trying to fix by lowering it to five cents.”
Lakeman expects other environmental groups to oppose the bill, which will have a public hearing on January 17 before the legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee.