‘Bottle bill’ scaled back
HARTFORD — At a time when the bottom has fallen out of the market for municipal recycling, legislation to expand the socalled bottle bill has died in the General Assembly, the victim of some of the state’s most-powerful lobbyists.
The beverage industry’s high-profile presence, including the well-known lobbying firms of Gaffney Bennett Public Relations and Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, again beat down legislation that would have doubled the 40-year-old nickel deposit law.
The bill would have also expanded the types of drink containers beyond carbonated beverages; and given the eight financially strapped regional redemption centers higher pay for the bottles and cans they handle
Amid the opposition from the beverage industry, the bill was drastically revised on the House floor Saturday afternoon, when Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, vice chairman of the Environment Committee, proposed that the issue be turned into a study of the recycling landscape.
His amendment, erasing the entire reform legislation, passed 98-47.
Chris Phelps, state director of Environment Connecticut, said he was discouraged by yet another victory for the beverage lobby.
“It’s like Groundhog Day all over again,” he said. “Every year when it comes to the bottle bill, every year, no progress is made, despite a lot of effort, a lot of work, a lot of recognition of the need to make progress. There is a lot of lobbying and a lot of money thrown from every direction, and it becomes about special interests and not about the policy goals.”
As the global market for recylables has failed, with China and other countries now rejecting material from the United States, more responsibility needs to be picked up by the state, Phelps said. Earlier this year, Hearst Connecticut Media reported that towns and cities are being assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs because the market has disappeared.
The bill started out this year to include wine and liquor bottles in a new 10-cent redemption law. The General Law Committee stripped those out of the bill, but retained the proposed expansion to include teas as well as sports and energy drinks. “A 21st century bottle bill is as much as anything about reducing the ecological and environmental harm from single-use disposable containers as much as anything else,” Phelps said.
During the Saturday discussion, Gresko said that Connecticut resident have the lowest return rate for bottles and cans in the nation at 50 percent. “It’s pretty clear that we need to modernize,” Gresko said, stressing that the task force would plan to salvage the state’s recycling landscape. “I know it’s a complicated issue with many moving parts and many individuals who take part in the cycle.”
Rep. Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, ranking member of the Environment Committee, said Gresko worked hard to get the reform bill to the House floor. “We need something more formal to get everyone in the room again to work on a solution,” Harding said.