‘Bot­tle bill’ scaled back

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Ken Dixon [email protected]­post.com Twit­ter: @KenDixonCT

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.

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