by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Clean Production Project Director
Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper and members of the Committee. My name is Matt Prindiville, and I’m the Clean Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I’m also here representing the Container Recycling Institute, a national non-profit organization that studies and promotes policies that increase recycling of beverage containers and packaging. NRCM and CRI strongly oppose LD 1324 and LD 1417, for a number of reasons.
First, both bills would decrease the state’s recycling rate, and would increase landfilling of beverage containers. The data is clear on this. In the 10 states that have bottle bills, the beverage container recycling rates average 80%. In all other states, the beverage container recycling rate is below 25%. So there is at least a 3 to 1 increase in collection performance from states with bottle bills compared to those without. No other container-focused recycling program even comes close to these types of recovery rates like bottle bills.
Secondly, LD 1324 would increase costs to municipalities and taxpayers. To prove this, one only has to look to our neighbors to the south in Massachusetts. Massachusetts currently has a bottle bill that includes only soda and beer, and they are trying to expand their program to include water and other beverages. The vast majority of these new beverages they are trying to add are in PET bottles.
A recent study commissioned by the state shows that municipalities would save $5 to 7 million per year from not having to collect and process these containers (both in the trash and recycling bins), and from not having to collect the littered containers. To date, over 165 municipalities in MA have passed resolutions asking the legislature to expand that State’s bottle bill.
On the flip side of costs, on Wednesday, you heard the Maine Beverage Association mention the handling fee expenses of the program, but they neglected to mention any program revenues from selling the scrap bottles. At current market values, the beverage containers may be worth over $15 million annually, and the beverage industry also keeps approximately $6 million in unclaimed deposits each year.
So they pay out $30 million to redemption centers, but they pocket over $20 million in sales and unclaimed bottle deposits. It’s still a loss, but it would be disingenuous to imply that the costs of the program don’t include their revenue.
Third, LD 1324 would increase the production of greenhouse gases. The beverage industry has implied that car and truck travel for the recycling of beverage containers under the bottle bill is a negative impact. What they failed to account for was the greenhouse gas savings from recycling. At the current 85% rate of recycling of beverage containers in Maine, the greenhouse gas savings are the equivalent to the annual emissions of 19,395 cars. At the average rate of 12,000 miles per year, the mileage equivalent is over 230 million miles. In other words, the greenhouse gas savings from recycling beverage containers in Maine is enough to drive a car around the entire circumference of the earth over 9,000 times, or to the moon and back 300 times.
I work for NRCM. We spend a lot of time and resources advocating for policies to reduce global warming pollution. If I thought that there was evidence that said the bottle bill increased greenhouse gases in Maine, I would not be standing here defending it before you today.
In closing, I would like to point out that the worldwide trend is toward bringing more beverage containers into deposit programs. While the beverage industry may mention Delaware’s repeal as a trend, that action is an exception to the rule. There are over 35 beverage container deposit programs in the world. Delaware’s law was the smallest and weakest law, covering only 19% of the beverage containers in that State, and the law was very poorly enforced, which is why the industry went after it first. Their repeal bills in Vermont and Iowa were quickly killed by your colleagues in other states, and the one that was proposed here in Maine was also quickly withdrawn by the sponsor before it was printed.
We urge you to do the same and reject LD 1324 and 1417 and reject any measures that would reduce the scope of Maine’s bottle bill, the most effective recycling program in the State.
Thank you for your time and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.