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[greenyes] CT bottle bill expansion mentioned in Worcester T&G

Those interested in beverage container deposit issues might find this
interesting. Only 2 states (Maine and California) have expanded their laws
to include non-carbonated beverages. This would be an exciting breakthrough
for container deposit supporters everywhere.

Front-Page ? Sunday?s CT Post

Battle over bottles brewing in Capitol

Lines drawn on deposit expansion for plain water

KEN DIXON dixon.connpost@no.address

HARTFORD ? A battle royal is shaping up over a controversial expansion of
the bottle-deposit law that would require new, nickel deposits on millions
of bottles of non-carbonated water sold in Connecticut.

First-term Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr. is putting
the weight of his office behind the legislation, which nearly died in the
Environment Committee, but was massively amended and revived in the Senate
on April 20.

After passing the Senate 31-3, it's now sitting on the House calendar,
where, Capitol insiders believe, it doesn't have enough votes ? yet ? to
pass the 151-member chamber.

Indeed, Williams, D-Brooklyn, hosted a Capitol reception Thursday evening
for environmental activists, whom he has asked for help. He said that
industry "disinformation" through a late-breaking but high-powered lobbying
campaign, is attempting to kill the bill in the House.

Opponents of the bottle-deposit expansion include grocery and
convenience-store owners and beverage bottlers and distributors, many of
whom believe that the current bottle-deposit program should be abandoned and
the curbside-recycling program expanded.

Store owners led by the Connecticut Food Association say the deposit-return
program is messy, smelly, unsanitary and costly enough without expanding it
to include millions more water bottles each year.

But Williams, a former chairman of the Environment Committee and Rep.
Richard Roy, D-Milford, a current co-chairman, said the bill's a logical way
to take the polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) plastic bottles out of the
waste stream and away from the state's solid waste incinerators.

"There's no question that we have a fight in terms of the soda lobby and
bottlers versus environmentalists," Williams said in an interview last week.
"In the lobbying campaign and the radio ads that are being run, they're
trying to convince people it's a tax and the costs were astronomical."

With no incentive to recycle the now-ubiquitous water bottles, more and more
are ending up littering beaches, soccer and Little League fields and
highways. Ironically, Williams said, the market has never been higher for
PET plastic, which is used to manufacture fleece sweaters and other
synthetic fabrics. Williams and Roy agree if the curbside recycling program
includes all bottles and cans, more people will simply throw away the

"Forty to 60 percent of roadside litter are portable beverage containers,"
Williams said. "Curbside recycling is great for your spaghetti-sauce jars
and cans of Campbell's Soup, but portable beverage containers don't get

Roy, in an interview Friday, conceded that there doesn't seem to be enough
support in the House, which has a 99-52 Democratic majority.

"Would it pass today? I don't know, but I certainly hope we vote on it by
the end of next week," Roy said. "It's Sen. Williams' bill and it's
Roy agreed that lobbyists are pulling out the stops and using
"fear-mongering" tactics to drum up opposition. "They're saying, Even though
we produce, deliver and sell the stuff, let's make taxpayers pay the bill,'
" Roy said. "They say curbside recycling is cheaper, but it's not. They
don't want to take responsibility for putting the trash in the system."

Roy, as committee co-chairman, voted against an amendment that essentially
gutted the bill, restricting the expansion of the redemption law until
surrounding states adopted similar legislation.

Williams stripped the amendment in the Senate, reverting it back to the
original bill and sending industry lobbyists into high gear.
Betty McLaughlin, director of environmental affairs for the Connecticut
Audubon Society, warned last week that opponents, including Coke, Pepsi and
Poland Spring, all of which are major players in the state's lucrative
non-carbonated water industry, are spending more than a quarter-million
dollars to help defeat the bill.
"These giant corporations and trade associations have hired the most
influential and best-paid lobbyists at the Capitol," McLaughlin said.
"Together these lobbying firms have 25 to 30 professional lobbyists spending
all day pressuring legislators to vote against the environment."

But Grace Nome, president of the Connecticut Food Association, who
represents supermarkets and groceries, said the bill is ill conceived and
"Expansion of the bottle law is probably the worst thing you could do to the
grocery industry," Nome said last week, adding that it could cost the
state's grocers another $16 million a year to expand current redemption
equipment and accommodate the millions of additional plastic bottles.

"We learned to manage what we've had to manage, but we put our cost to
manage the bottle law on your food," Nome said. She said that because it's
usually easier to redeem containers at groceries that liquor stores, the
food industry redeems 2.5 times what they sell.

"The point is, that maybe people who are supporting this don't understand
the complexity of the issue," said Nome, a 26-year veteran of Capitol
lobbying. "Fifty percent of the cans and bottles in the garbage are deposit

Nome said she had hoped that the bill would have come up from a House debate
last Wednesday or Thursday, when she believed there weren't enough votes to
approve it.

"We have offered as a industry to sit down and talk about litter," Nome
said. "The ShopRite in Milford has offered to pay for the cleanup of the
Milford beaches."

Adding water bottles to the recycling stream will exacerbate an already
dirty business.

"The grocery industry does more for the people of this state than anything
else," Nome said, predicted that if the bill passes and takes effect next
Jan. 1, water bottles from New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island would be
redeemed by the thousands at Connecticut supermarkets.

Paul Nonnenmacher, director of public affairs for the Connecticut Resources
Recovery Authority, which operates the state's solid-waste programs, said
Friday the CRRA backs the bottle-bill expansion.

But it would come at a price to taxpayers, because the sale of recyclables
lowers tipping fees for municipal garbage trucks at the regional
garbage-to-energy incinerators, he said.

"We support the idea, but as we had told the Environment Committee, when we
testified, there's going to be a revenue loss by taking away these
recyclable commodities, it will have an impact on tip fees," Nonnenmacher

He said that the CRRA would probably become more actively in favor of the
legislation, if it included a provision to pass along a $20 million-a-year
windfall to the authority. It's called "escheats" and it coincides with the
unclaimed bottle deposits that distributors and bottlers retain from bottles
and cans that are tossed into the waste stream, rather than redeemed, each

Nonnenmacher said the CRRA is eagerly awaiting a state Department of
Environmental Protection study of the state's solid-waste projects and the
creation of a new solid-waste management plan by the end of the year.

"This is an opportunity for the DEP to take a holistic approach," he said,
"because each of these items is a piece of a bigger puzzle."
Ken Dixon, who covers the Capitol, can be reached at (860) 549-4670.

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