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Proposed Md. bill calls for 5-cent bottle deposit

Monday - 1/27/2014, 3:59pm  ET

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More than 7,500 signed petitions supporting the bottle bill were delivered to Gov. Martin O'Malley's office on Monday, Jan. 27. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

WASHINGTON - A "bottle bill," to be introduced in the General Assembly this week, could mean 5-cents back in consumers' pockets for each can or bottle they recycle in Maryland.

The Maryland Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, delivered 7,500 signed petitions to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk Monday in support of the bill.

"With the bottle bill, Maryland has the opportunity to get to an achievable goal of 80 percent container recycling by 2020," says Joanna Guy with PIRG.

Gov. O'Malley included increasing container recycling in his Climate Change Plan released in the summer of 2014. Proponents say if implemented, it will triple what the state is recycling now.

Under the proposed program, consumers would bring their bottles and cans to deposit spots, likely at grocery stores, and redeem their money there. The locations of the deposit spots are still unknown.

"It's good for the state for many reasons. We recycle 22 percent of cans and bottles a year. That's four billion pieces of trash, three billion of which end up in the Bay in rivers and streams. It's a huge waste of money and a problem for the environment, says state Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County.

Frosh is introducing the bill whose only opponents are the beverage companies. He says that's because it's a win-win for the state, and its counties in particular.

"The counties will not only get the value of the raw materials recycled, but will get the redemption fee," he says.

That means that consumers who choose to recycle bottles and cans at the curb will relinquish their five cents per bottle to their respective county.

"Any unredeemed deposits would go to recycling programs and expanding those recycling programs," Guy says.

Many of that money would be put toward preservation and protection of the Chesapeake Bay, Frosh says.

The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association says the state would be better served focusing on expanding comprehensive and popular curbside recycling that is already in place. The association says it also has the hidden cost of building and operating redundant recycling systems.

The bill proposes distributors change their labels to reflect a 5-cent redeemable deposit in Maryland by April 2015. If approved, Frosh expects the program would go into effect in 2016.

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