EPA WON'T REPEAL DEPOSIT LAW

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WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has shelved plans to repeal a largely ignored requirement that put a 5-cent deposit on beverage containers sold at federal facilities.

The agency received comments both supporting and opposing the 20-year-old rule, which EPA contends has become obsolete in light of state and local recycling mandates. Without adverse feedback, the agency had planned to strike the rule from its books March 3. The rule, which lapsed into obscurity in the 1980s, covers all federal facilities, including military bases.

The agency received 13 comments, which lined up arguments from bottle-bill advocates against soft-drink industry representatives and their suppliers.

``It is clear that container deposit programs at such facilities are unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive for local recycling collection programs,'' wrote Rodney W. Lowman, vice president of government affairs for the American Plastics Council.

The National Soft Drink Association, Muncie, Ind.-based Ball Corp. and the Food Marketing Association agreed, noting that local governments have comprehensive solid-waste management programs that recover a much broader range of recyclables.

But advocates of mandatory deposit requirements argued the agency should spend more time making the regulation work.

``These guidelines are as relevant today as they were when they were first issued,'' said Amy Perry, solid-waste program director for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, writing on behalf of U.S. PIRG and 18 state chapters.

The General Services Administration estimates the buildings it manages recycled 320 tons of beverage containers in 1996.