Senator Saviello, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 683, An Act to Fund the Maine Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program and To Phase Out Certain Containers from Maine’s Bottle Redemption Laws.
This is the third time in recent years that this committee has considered a bill developed by the bottling industry to remove a class of containers from Maine’s highly successful Beverage Container Redemption Program (aka “bottle bill”).
- In 2011, the Committee considered LD 1324, which would have removed all containers larger than 28 ounces from the bottle bill. The Committee unanimously rejected the proposal.
- In 2015, the Committee considered LD 1204, which would have removed all containers larger than 32 ounces from the bottle bill. The Committee unanimously rejected the proposal.
- Now you’re considering LD 683 to remove all containers larger than 46 ounces from the bottle bill. We request that the committee unanimously reject this proposal for all the same reasons that the prior bills were defeated.
Reasons to oppose LD 683
This proposal, like the others, is aimed at unraveling Maine’s bottle bill—the companies supporting the proposal would gain millions of dollars in benefits, while Maine towns would face increased waste management costs.
Maine has a successful bottle redemption program and we shouldn’t mess with it. Maine’s bottle bill collects more beverage containers per capita than any other program in the United States. Maine’s bottle bill:
- Reduces litter and increases recycling. We recycle about 90% of our bottles and cans in Maine, which is more than double the recycling rate in Maine for other materials;
- Supports more than 1,000 jobs at hundreds of redemption centers and spurs millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic activity;
- Reduces costs for towns and taxpayers for litter collection, container collection, transportation, and recycling; and
- Helps Mainers raise money through bottle drives for schools, churches, sports teams, and other charitable causes.
This would be a great deal for bottle companies, but a bad deal for Maine. If LD 683 were enacted, bottling companies would save millions of dollars through avoided handling fees. Those savings would last indefinitely. In exchange, Mainers would receive a mere half-cent per bottle that would be dedicated toward municipal recycling grants, which would be terminated in just five years. Maine towns would experience increased waste management costs, and the State would lose money from reduced label registration fees and reduced unclaimed deposits associated with these larger containers. These funds support program administration and the State’s general fund.
Maine’s redemption centers will suffer the most. The bill would reduce the volume of containers and handling fees at redemption centers. Some of these redemption centers already operate on razor thin profit margins, so cutting revenues by even a small amount could cause a loss of jobs, and possibly even closures. Redemption centers also would have the burden of explaining the new program to the public, telling them that they would now need to check the number of ounces for each large container before bringing it back for redemption.
Maine municipalities would lose millions over the next six years. One of the reasons Maine lawmakers enacted the bottle bill in 1976 was because it would reduce costs for towns and taxpayers for litter and container collection, transportation, and recycling. It is more cost-effective for beverage companies to handle and market these materials than it is to for municipalities. LD 683 would shift costs to municipalities, which would have to assume the responsibility of collection, transportation, and disposal of the larger containers that would be removed from the program.
Undermining the bottle bill is not the right way to increase recycling in Maine. NRCM supported the bill enacted last year that created the Maine Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program that sits in Maine statute with no funding. We support providing funding for such grants, but not by shifting new waste management costs to towns, jeopardizing the economic viability of some redemption centers, creating public confusion over what containers are covered by the bottle bill, and reducing the recycling rate for containers larger than 46 ounces. If the Committee is interested in funding the Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program, then we encourage you to tap into millions of dollars collected by the State through unclaimed deposits.
In summary, LD 683 is a bad deal for Maine. The costs of this proposal far outweigh any benefits. Testifying on this bill is déjà vu all over again. We encourage the Committee to give LD 683 a unanimous “Ought Not To Pass” vote, as the Committee has on similar bills in the past.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments, and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.