The long-forbidden topic of deposit legislation will finally be debated when the National Recycling Coalition board of directors meets May 19-20 in Washington. Long-time foes of deposits have had their way too long with what has amounted to nothing short of a gag order. A positive vote of that committee - though unlikely - would send the measure on to the full board for possible adoption the following day. Acute shortages are threatening the viability of recycling success, and nothing brings in material like deposits. All of the old arguments against deposits no longer hold any truth.
Deposit foes, led by the soft drink industry, always level their attacks on two fronts. First is that the nation's grocery stores are not the place for an insect- and rodent-laden pile of dirty containers, and second, that cities would lose the desperately needed funds that come from the sale of the highest-value recyclables normally included in deposit laws - aluminum cans and PET bottles.
Container redemption no longer needs to take place at the point of sale, where it is usually not wanted or advisable. California's redemption law proves that recycling centers are well-suited as redemption sites and that operators of those sites can turn a tidy profit in the process.
The money argument for cities proves even easier to refute. My policy suggests that the substantial dollars from deposits that are not redeemed (about $1.6 billion in a national 10 cent deposit law) go directly to the cities that have responsibility for administering curbside programs. Cities also could redeem the cans and bottles that they still receive at full deposit value instead of just scrap value. That would make a pound of aluminum cans worth $2.80 (28 cans times 10 cents per can) instead of the substantially lower 50 or 60 cents per pound in scrap metal value.
This letter is absolutely not an official release of the NRC. I am sending it as an individual NRC board member who fully acknowledges that the leadership and staff of NRC is unware of its submission and would be screaming mad to learn of it. I submit it only to help stop the moneyed interests that exert undue power over NRC deliberations.
Recycling was is not over
The irrepressible Marty Foreman may be retiring from the business side of plastics recycling, but we're fortunate that he's still interested in the health and welfare of the plastics industry. Not that he's right, mind you, but we need Marty around to constantly remind us that the plastic recycling war is not over.
As long as there exist recycling missionaries who advocate recycling at any cost, for whatever reasons and with always the best of intentions, there are those who will call for public policies to ``encourage'' closing the loop. When the market ``fails,'' they say, manipulate supply and demand through the power of clever governmental programs and mandates. And if the result isn't cost-effective, support it with subsidies. Not from the government anymore, because unfunded mandates are out, but from consumers and producers.
Marty's scheme to create a supply of recyclables through national deposit legislation, and ``finish the job'' by funneling the revenue from unredeemed deposits back to community collection programs, is likely to result in a recycling welfare program with insatiable demands. And who pays? The consumer, directly.
Personally, I don't think there's a chance that national deposit legislation will be seriously considered by this Congress, or the 105th. But we need to be ever watchful for pressure on states to develop alternate funding mechanisms to subsidize bloated recycling programs. Federal unfunded mandates legislation addressing state and local government has been passed, but where does that leave the public and industry when new revenue is ``necessary'' to pay for populist causes?
In Florida, the war goes on over the ADF (tax) on food containers. Fortunately, some courageous opponents have taken on the challenge of repealing this law. A Florida legislator said in sponsoring an amendment to end the advance disposal fee, ``If people are already recycling throughout the state of Florida, let them keep their money. It's that simple.''
The moves in Florida are promising, but the war isn't over, and there are many wars and battles to be fought elsewhere. Fortunately, the mood of the country now is to streamline government operations and downsize their scope.
What the public, our customers, should hear from industry is, ``Keep your money. No more taxes, fees, or deposits.'' It's that simple.