Alert 663: Ask Markell to veto recycling rollback

Delaware’s “Bottle Bill” was enacted in 1982 after years of effort led largely by Pat Todd of the League of Women Voters. As one might expect, a major opponent was the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, known to us as the Garbage Empire.

The bill puts a five cent deposit on some glass and plastic beverage containers.  Beverage distributors collect the deposit, and, apparently, get to keep it if the containers aren’t returned.

Most people would probably agree that the bill hasn’t been working well enough, except maybe for those pocketing the deposits.  We’ve heard many complaints of retailers being reluctant to take back containers.  The five cent deposit has obviously eroded in value since 1982 and needs to be increased.  A wider range of sizes and contents needs to be covered, especially one-liter bottles and aluminum cans.

Still, a container deposit program is an important part of a serious “zero waste” program.  Delaware’s program  needs to be improved, not abolished.

House Bill 201 was introduced on June 9, 2009, authored by Rep. John Viola, one of Delaware’s most bone-headed legislators.  It was co-sponsored by eight others including Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Terry Schooley.

It was released by the House Natural Resources Committee on June 18, on a motion from Rep. John Kowalko.

“Collin O’Mara, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, expressed the department’s concern over the legislation.  Secretary O’Mara realized the concerns with the current bill, but believed it was better to, “fix it, not nix it.” Secretary O’Mara also added that if they chose to repeal the original bill, Delaware would be the first state to repeal the bottle bill.” (Committee minutes)

HB 201 was passed by the House of Representatives on June with only THREE no votes:  Reps. Billy Oberle and Nick Manolakos, and House Speaker Bob Gilligan. Rep. Schooley didn’t vote.

HB 201 was passed by the Senate on July 1, 2009 at 2:07 am.  The six senators voting against it were George Bunting, Brian Bushweller, Mike Katz, Harris McDowell, Karen Peterson, and Dave Sokola.  Liane Sorenson didn’t vote.

Why did ANYONE vote for this bill?  There were rumors of a deal involving increased taxes on liquor, but no such tax was passed.  I don’t really know.

Pat Todd had this to say:

“We are asking the Governor to veto HB 201 which would repeal the Delaware Bottle Bill Law.  He needs to hear from other people across the country about this shameful bill passed in the House at 11.29 pm, June 30th and in the Senate at 2:07 am. July 1.  This is the work of the beverage industry.  It was only put on the agenda earlier on June 30th.  Our legislature is closed for the year.”

For whatever reason, “enviro” orgs in Delaware seem to have show very little interest in this attempted rollback of recycling.

The good news is that it’s not a done deal.  Gov. Markell, who talked about expanded recycling during his campaign, has at least ten days in which to veto HB 201, which has not yet been formally sent to the Governor’s office.

Ask him to do it:

And let you legislator know how you feel about his or her vote.  Contact information.

Alan Muller

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