A Montgomery County task force examining the redemption and recycling of beverage containers will give its final report to the County Council tomorrow, outlining three proposals for the handling of beverage containers.
The group was asked to find the most convenient ways for consumers to redeem beverage containers after the county law requiring five-cent deposits on all beverage containers goes into effect. The law, twice postponed, is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.
The task force, composed of citizens and representatives of industry and environmental groups, never reached agreement. Some of the 12 members said they believe that the mandatory legislation, which industry in general dislikes, is not feasible at all.
"The diversity of opinion caused us to reach no consensus on one proposal," said Shelton H. Skolnick, chairman of the task force. As a result, three proposals are detailed in the report:
A recycling center where consumers could turn in, for an established price, beverage containers made of any material. Customers would be paid 7 cent per aluminum can, 1 cent per steel can, and .07 cent for glass bottle. The center would recycle the container materials and sell them to manufacturers.
A mobile redemption center that would stop in several locations so that people could return bottles and reclaim their 5-cent deposits.
Redemption centers located at empty bays of gas stations.
Seven members of the group voted for the recycling center, three endorsed the proposal for a mobile redemption center, and two supported the gas station redemption centers, Skolnick said.
"They voted for the first choices, but that doesn't mean they would totally disagree with the others," he said.
Those who endorsed the recycling center want the mandatory deposit legislation to be postponed or killed, according to Skolnick.
"They want a year to demonstrate that the recycling center can work," he said. "But some say you can have a recycling center and mandatory deposit. Even after the containers are returned (as part of mandatory deposit) what do you do with them then? Crush them and throw them in the garbage?"
The purpose of mandatory deposit legislation was to give consumers an incentive to return bottles and cans to stores or some redemption center. This would help prevent litter and extra trash in garbage landfills, since most of the bottles and cans returned would be recycled.
Stores and industry complained that the legislation means that they would have have to find enough room to keep returned bottles stored away from other food products.
The recycling center proposal, which proponents argue would also eliminate the problems of stores having to receive containers, is based on a successful program in Arizona called the Beverage Industry Recycling Program (BIRP).
According to task force member W. Edward Gregory, public relations director for Pepsi-Cola in Washington, the project in Arizona was originally financed by beer distributros and soft drink bottlers in Arizona. Once the center was established and people began bringing in their containers, the recycled products were sold to companies and "the center became financially self-sustaining," said Gregory.
John Breier, from the Montgomery Enviromental Coalition and a task force member, called the recycling center proposal "an unconscienable effort of industry to put bribery in to kill or postpone mandatory deposit legislation."
The center will not work because people will not be motivated to bring in containers for such a small amount of money.
"You're much more likely to take (a container back for a nickel than for seven-tenths of a center," Breier said. "They won't make enough to support the recycling center."
The mobile recycling center would make trips to stores two or three times a week and pick up containers recently turned in to the stores. This would prevent the containers from accumulating, he said.
The center would be financed at first by deposits paid on beer bottles that were never turned in for redemption. The county controls beer distribution, so that would be the county's money, he said. The mobile unit would start by picking up beer bottles. But Breier said that after other merchants saw the convenience of the system, they would be willing to contribute money to the mobile redemption unit.