Chairman Jackson, Chairman Dill, and members of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. My name is Pete Didisheim. I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine and I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 291.
NRCM was involved with passage of Maine’s beverage container law, also known as the bottle bill, when it was initially enacted in 1978, and we have been involved in issues related to implementation of the bottle bill, Maine’s recycling programs, and the state’s other product stewardship programs ever since.
We believe that transferring administration of Maine’s bottle bill from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Maine DEP could help achieve better program performance and integration with Maine’s other recycling and product stewardship programs—all of which are housed at the DEP.
Ten states have a bottle bill like the one in Maine, yet we are the only state where the bottle bill is administered within the state’s agricultural agency. Attached to my testimony is a list of the nine other states with bottle bills and the agencies in those states that are responsible for bottle bill administration. All these other states do have agricultural agencies, yet in every one of these states the responsibility for their bottle bill is assigned to the same environmental agency that also manages recycling and product stewardship programs—as would be achieved through passage of LD 291.
When the bottle bill was enacted 35 years ago, there may have been a reason why the Department of Agriculture seemed like the right agency to oversee, administer, and enforce the program. Today, however, the program’s placement at the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry seems disconnected from Maine’s other programs that involve recycling and product stewardship.
From 1991 to 2009, the Maine Legislature enacted six additional product-specific laws that require manufacturers to operate programs to recover their products from the waste stream so that problematic and toxic products don’t end up as litter or in landfills and incinerators where their reuse value is lost. The bottle bill is a product stewardship program similar to these others that are Administered at the DEP, which deal with mercury-containing lamps, thermostats, batteries, and auto light switches; electronic waste; and cell phones.
The DEP administers all six of these other product stewardship programs on behalf of the state, and does so within a DEP’s newly established Sustainability Unit—headed by the person who formerly was Maine’s point person for recycling at the State Planning Office, before SPO was dismantled by the current Administration.
The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s current administrative responsibilities for the bottle bill are performed by 3.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs). These employees are responsible for inspection, registration, licensing, enforcement, communications with regulated entities, database maintenance, and some public education.
Similarly, DEP’s Product Stewardship staff regularly communicate with and make site visits or inspections at municipal waste collection sites and hundreds of wholesale and retail sites that collect products such as thermostats or electronic waste for recycling. They oversee payment structures between manufacturers and private and public entities that collect products for recycling; maintain databases for collection, license and registration information; and work with multiple players on public education and outreach tasks.
If administration of Maine’s bottle bill were moved to the DEP, then Maine residents, communities, and lawmakers could gain a more comprehensive understanding of the overall performance of all of Maine’s product stewardship programs. This change could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program, and place the bottle bill with the state agency that is responsible for promoting recycling, product stewardship, and sound approaches to waste management.
I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 291 and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Nine other Bottle Bill States Administer the Bottle Bill under their environmental agencies:
Vermont: Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) division of waste management
California: Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)
Connecticut: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The primary administrator for deposit initiators is the Department of Revenue Services (DRS).
Hawaii: Department of Health. Environmental Management Division, Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch
New York: Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
Michigan: The Department of Treasury
Massachusetts: Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Iowa: Department of Natural Resources
Oregon: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (Bottle bill policy, recycling data and bottle bill development), Oregon Liquor Control Commission(enforcement), Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative(stewardship organization: administration)
Maine DACF’s Current Administrative Tasks, performed by 3.5 FTEs, consist of:
Inspection of redemption centers, RVMs at retail sites
Registration of labels from initiators of deposit
Licensing of initiators of deposit, redemption centers, RVMs
Enforcement of compliance by collection sites, initiator’s of deposit, public
Communication with retailers, collection facilities, distributors, manufacturers
Database Maintenance of information regarding registered initiators of deposit, for use by collection facilities
Public Education for collection facilities to prevent fraud
Maine Department of Revenue Services Current Tasks:
Administers the abandoned deposit payments