Maryland legislators on Monday announced a proposal for a “beverage container rebate program,” which they say could increase the state’s recycling rate from its current rate of 22 percent to 75 percent.
“If you choose to recycle, you get 100 percent of your money back,” said Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City). “If you don’t, your county gets more money for environmental programs. ”
Under the proposal, consumers would pay a 5-cent deposit on every disposable beverage container (glass, aluminum, or plastic), which they would collect when they returned the can or bottle to a “reclamation center” in the community.
At a press conference Monday at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, lawmakers unveiled the program, which they’ve dubbed “Recycle For Real. ”
The legislation will be sponsored by McIntosh, who chairs the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee, along with Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery).
McIntosh said that previous recycling legislation had put most of the burden of operating the program on retailers, including making them responsible for collecting the recycled containers and refunding the rebate-per-can. “They didn’t like to have to do it,” she said.
“Now we put the nickel on the distributor or the wholesaler,” she said. After they sell it to the retailers, the distributors “get to hang on to that extra 5 cents a can for 4 billion cans, for 30 days and make interest off of it.”
McIntosh believes that these economic incentives will promote greater participation in the program. A number of industrial groups, like Alcoa Inc., an aluminum manufacturer, and the Glass Packaging Institute, have indicated their support for the program, she said.
Programs like “Recycle for Real” are already on the books in 10 states: New York, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Oregon and Vermont, all of which have recycling rates well above Maryland’s.
However, there’s also a potential downside. The “Recycle for Real” Web site addresses concerns about potential fraud. For example, a large volume of cans and bottles might be purchased out of state, and returned in Maryland.
In states such as Michigan and California, fraud of that kind has already cost the states millions of dollars. The Maryland Web site says that it will prevent the fraudulent redemption of out-of-state cans and bottles through “unique deposit markings and proven verification technology.”
“We haven’t recycled the same old recycling bill,” said McIntosh, “This is different.”
The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association released a statement expressing its opposition to the legislation.
“The proposed bottle deposit ... creates a new tax on consumers who purchase beverages in containers,’’ the statement says. “A bottle deposit will damage business, destroy valuable Maryland jobs, upend current curbside recycling programs, increase prices to consumers, and make Maryland a dumping ground for empty recyclables from other states.”