Friday, March 23, 2007

Examiner Editorial
Steven Soifer: Maryland legislature must pass bottle deposit bill
A container deposit law would spur Maryland’s recycling.
A container deposit law would spur Maryland’s recycling.
BALTIMORE - The state of Maryland missed the opportunity to enter the 21st century by passing a container deposit law, better known as a “bottle bill” this year. Currently, 11 states across the U.S. have such bills (CT, DE, HI, IA, ME, MA, NY, OR, VT — $.05, MI — $.10, CA — redemption value). While every bill differs, the common thread running through them is that a person pays an extra amount when purchasing a bottle and receives it back when returning the bottle for recycling.

HB 839, sponsored by Del. Pete Hammen, D-46, would have required a $.05 deposit, and subsequently a refund, on beverage containers (glass, aluminum and plastic) sold in Maryland. While the bill may have died an ignominious death in committee last week, plans already exist to reintroduce it next year.

Citizens Using Resources Better (CURB), an outgrowth of a student group from the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, is pushing the bill. According to Jennifer Will, one of CURB’s leaders and a graduate student at the school, Maryland’s “bill is unique in that it doesn’t involve the bottlers. Instead, the program will be state run and will pay for itself and then some, through unclaimed deposits.”

Another unique aspect of the bill, according to Jake Weissmann, another CURB leader and School of Social Work graduate student, is that although “the bill is statewide, it will fall to the city and county governments to establish the redemption centers and to hire people to staff those centers.” Weissmann believes that the bill could create as many as 250 jobs.

Here’s how it would work: When a consumer purchases a container, he or she would pay an additional $.05, which the retailer turns over to the comptroller’s office. When a person returns this bottle to their local county-run redemption center, he or she receives the $.05 back. In return, the county-run redemption centers receive an additional $.02 from the State as a handling fee. This $.02 will come from unclaimed deposits, which accumulate when people do not return their bottles and cans for a refund. Finally, private retail stores may also apply to be a redemption center.

Thus, the bottle bill pays for itself through unclaimed deposits, creates more recycling and retail industry jobs, saves taxpayers money, increases recycling rates, and controls litter — all positive benefits. In fact, studies show beverage containers comprise 40 to 60 percent of all litter, and that bottle bills help to reduce container litter by 69 to 84 percent, and total litter by 34 to 64 percent. If that weren’t enough information in its favor, a 2002 report showed recycling rates were two and a half times higher in deposit states than in non-deposit states. Given that the State’s Highway Administration spends about $8 million per year of taxpayers’ money for highway litter cleanup, and that this bill pays for itself, it clearly benefits everyone.

Who opposed the bill? Well, other than a representative of Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon’s office (which is ironic, since the City Council passed a resolution supporting the bottle bill!), the only other significant opposition came from out-of-state interests. Anheuser-Busch flew in more than a half dozen lobbyists from St. Louis, spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying against the bill, romancing many who previously supported the bill, including Dixon. If the bill passes the House Committee in the next week or so, we can expect them to spend hundreds of thousands against it.

Maryland needs this bottle bill. It’s not too early to contact your state legislators to let them know they should pass it next year.

Steven Soifer is a professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Reach him at


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An open letter to Bottle Bill Supporters

Hello Bottle Bill Supporters!!!!!!!
So, we have good news and bad news. I guess we will get the disappointing news out of the way first...HB 839 died in an Environmental Matters sub-committee last week. We are trying to find out details and will send out an email if we find out anything useful.
The good news is that many legislators, citizens and organizations are extremely motivated to make a bottle bill happen next year. We are working with folks to come up with a plan to move forward with this.

If your representative was a co-sponsor, we encourage you to thank them. If not, we still encourage you to contact them to let them know that this is important to you and is something that you will be expecting to see happen next year.
We want to THANK ALL OF YOU for your support, action and motivation! We also hope to have your support next year as we continue to work on making a bottle bill happen in Maryland.
Citizens Using Resources Better

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thoughts on 839

So at the hearing on 3/7 we heard somne interesting thoughts we thought we'd share and if neccesary clarify with you.

Commissioner Lennie Thompson from Frederick County brought up some interesting points before the hearing. Commissioner Thompson is a Republican Commissioner who came down to Annapolis to testify on the bill. He told us that people should not be surprised that true Conservatives (such as himself) are for the bill. He explained that as a County Commissioner, he doesn't want his county and residents to be responsible for cleaning up after the messes which corporations left behind. As an example, in Maryland we require manufacturers of a number of different products, including computers to either pay a fee for the right to sell their product or to start looking at options for cleaning up their messes. HB 839 doesn't even require that much of bottlers and retailers (some work for retailers), yet they found it necessary to hire lobbyist after lobbyist to testify against this bill (Including the infamous Bruce C. Bereano). Makes you wonder what sort of opposition we would face if this were a standard bottle bill, huh?

Speaking of lobbysit arguments, we thought we'd refute a couple, as just a small glimpse into the facts versus the fiction of the bottle bill

Argument: Beverage containers only make up 3.2% of solid waste

Our response: Solid waste is what ends up in landfills. Beverage containers comprise 40-60% of the litter that doesn’t make it to landfills, but instead end up on our roads, waterways and cities. The Harris Creek trash inceptor has pulled out 16 tons of trash in the 5 months it has been in operation; 55-60% of which were beverage containers.

Argument: Bottle bills only increase recycling by 1% and will undermine curbside recycling

Our response: The 11 bottle bill states recycle more beverage containers than the remaining 39 combined! According to a report published in January 2002 titled Understanding Beverage Container Recycling: A Value Chain Assessment a combination of recycling methods in deposit states results in beverage container recycling rates more than two and a half times higher than in non-deposit states.

(Several other studies have researched the economic effect of a deposit system on an existing curbside program. In 1991, the Seattle Solid Waste Utility conducted its own analysis to determine the impact of a national bottle bill on the economics of the City's recycling program, one of the oldest and most successful curbside recycling programs in the nation. The study, titled Potential Impacts of a National Bottle Bill on Seattle's Curbside Recycling Program, found that 42 to 54 percent more beverage container tonnage would be diverted, while there would be an overall net system savings to the city between 236,917 and 632,774 dollars. They concluded, ".a bottle bill would divert additional tonnage with no significant impact to either City costs or curbside recycling profits.")

Keep on fighting! Hopefully we'll hear something soon!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

CURB Update!!!

The hearing for the bottle bill was on March 7th and went fairly well. Thanks to all who came in support!!!! We had a lot of opponents, which we expected, who made a few valid arguments and a lot of false arguments.
Now that the hearing is over our work really begins. We must refute the false arguments and get HB 839 out of the Environmental Matters Committee. This involves contacting your legislators! Even if you have signed a form letter in support, it would prove very useful to write a personal email or make a phone call to your representatives. If you aren't sure how to find them, visit .
Especially key are the legislators on the Environmental Matters committee which are :
Appointed by House Speaker:
Maggie McIntosh (District 43), Chair (410) 841-3990, (301) 858-3990
James E. Malone, Jr. (District 12A), Vice-Chair (410) 841-3378, (301) 858-3378

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Keeping in the media!!!

Here's a great picture that was in The Sun today of some members of CURB attempting to speak to Mayor Sheila Dixon about the Bottle Bill. Unfortunately, the Mayor decided to start the press conference 20 minutes early and by the time we got there, the Mayor had left. Good picture though,0,7105735.photogallery?coll=bal-local-headlines&index=11

Friday, March 9, 2007


We'll be giving you more details within the next couple days of things you can do, but one thing you can do right now is goto and sign the petition! It's quick, easy , fun and educational!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Apparently a deposit isn't just for beverage containers...

The Nickel-Bag Offense

Starting next week, IKEA will charge customers five cents for every plastic bag they take home and encourage a third option to the old 'paper or plastic' conundrum: bring your own.

By Brian Braiker

Newsweek March 7, 2007

March 7, 2007 - Apparently BYOB translates a little differently in Sweden. At least for IKEA, the privately held assemble-it-yourself furniture chain and Swedish-meatball purveyor, the acronym now means “bring your own bag.” Beginning March 15, all of its U.S. stores will start charging five cents for each plastic bag that customers take their purchases home in. The idea is to encourage the masses to bring their own bags with an eye toward reducing litter—an explicit reminder that what was once free to the customer did not necessarily come without a greater cost.

“We’re strangling our planet with plastic,” says Mona Astra Liss, a company spokesperson. IKEA will also be selling a 59-cent reusable polypropylene “Big Blue Bags” for customers to bring back on subsequent shopping jaunts (or use elsewhere in their daily shopping adventures). “We’re just asking our customers to seriously think about all the plastic bags they use on a daily basis.” With nearly 40 big-box stores across the United States, the program’s impact could be significant: when IKEA instituted a similar tax in Great Britain, plastic bag use fell by 95 percent, according to the spokesperson. The company projects that the number of plastic bags used by their U.S. customers could be cut in half—from 70 million to 35 million—in the first year.

“We applaud this,” says Allen Hershkowitz, a solid-waste-management expert at the National Resources Defense Council in Washington, who points out that plastic bags are made from either petroleum, coal or natural gas. “Does it make sense for us to use an increasingly valuable raw material for throwaway plastic bags? I was recently by the shore and a plastic bag in the water looked just like a jellyfish. You could see a turtle come up and snatch it and that would be it for the turtle. But the upstream impacts are so much more substantial than downstream: the production of plastic generates lethal gases, phosphine and greenhouse-gas emissions.”

If Americans were aware of those facts, maybe it would have more of an impact on their behavior. As a country, the United States throws away approximately 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags a year—less than 1 percent are recycled, the Worldwatch Institute reports. Despite the fact that just about any plastic bag brought home from the supermarket is reusable (and can take 1,000 years to degrade, according to the Environmental Protection Agency), the average family accumulates 60 of them in just four trips to the grocery store, according to (IKEA’s 59-cent Big Blue Bag is made of plastic, but “it would take 1,000 uses for it to be unusable,” according to their spokesperson.)

Still, not everyone loves the IKEA plan. “To say that you’re more green because you force your customers to bring in the reusable bag makes little sense,” says Rob Krebs of the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council, which “represents leading manufacturers of plastic resins,” according to its Web site. “Only 4 to 5 percent of all fossil fuels produce all the plastics annually consumed in the U.S. Now, 29 percent of those plastics are used in packaging. So if you follow the reasoning, 29 percent of 5 percent of all fossil fuels is about 1.5 percent. So plastic bags are a miniscule percent of our resources,” a statistic that environmental groups do not refute. Krebs continues: “The idea that plastics end up in landfills is a shibboleth of the environmental movement. It’s not like we’re running out of landfill space.” (According to the EPA, the number of landfills in the United States plummeted from 8,000 in 1988 to 1,654 in 2005. But since new landfills are much larger than in the past, the capacity has remained relatively constant.)

IKEA isn’t the first retailer to propose “greener” shopping-bag options. For at least a decade, Whole Foods Markets, the Texas-based natural and organic grocery chain, has been giving customers a nickel or a dime back (depending on the store) for every bag they bring in and reuse. In recognition of Earth Day, for the entire month of April that will bump up to a dime in each of the company's 192 stores. In the past two years they have also sold more than 2 million reusable bags made from recycled plastic, according to a spokesperson.

In 2005 Wal-Mart began switching from petroleum-based to biodegradable corn-based plastic packaging. The plastic comes from NatureWorks, a division of Cargill Dow—whose parent company, Cargill, has come under fire for its distribution of genetically engineered corn. The giant retail chain also claims to have diverted “1,100 tons of plastic from landfills” on its Web site. (Wal-Mart representatives declined requests for an interview).

Meanwhile, local governments are trying to influence shoppers’ behavior. San Francisco’s Commission on the Environment attempted to mandate a 17-cent surcharge on each plastic and paper bag a shopper takes home in 2005, but Mayor Gavin Newsom ultimately rejected the plan. Now the city is considering an ordinance that plastic bags used in the 60 main chain stores in San Francisco be compostable, made from corn or potato starch, according to the commission’s Jared Blumenthal. “It’s likely that will pass, and of the city’s 181 million plastic bags, that will probably add up to 150 million.”

On a smaller scale, Brooklyn’s $27.5 million Park Slope Food Co-op has been discouraging its 12,800 members from using plastic bags for two decades and asks that they volunteer a few coins in return for their use, according to the co-op’s Joe Holtz. “We say, ‘We want you to pay for them, but we’re going to leave it up to the honor system’,” he says. When people join the market, they are given a cotton mesh bag, which the co-op also sells, along with reusable 54-cent plastic sacks like IKEA’s Big Blue Bag. “They’re plastic but much better for the environment if people use them every week," says Holtz. "You use a lot less plastic overall if you use them 200 times. I’ve been using some of mine four or five years." When was the last time you could say that about the bag you brought your groceries home in?

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc. |

Brand New Bag: The previously free plastic sack (left) will cost a nickel, but the 59 cent 'Big Blue Bag' is reusable many times over

Photos : PRNewsFoto (l.) ; George Widman / AP

Brand New Bag: The previously free plastic sack (left) will cost a nickel, but the 59 cent 'Big Blue Bag' is reusable many times over