First 2008 Maryland Bottle Bill Meeting Report

The first 2008 bottle bill meeting was held on July 14th. It was quite productive. We had about 10 good people (Jim Fary from the Sierra Club wanted to start with a core group) and hope to get many more for the next meeting and make this a large, state-wide coalition with lots of grass-roots support. There is a lot to accomplish before the Maryland Assembly convenes in January, and we need a bottle bill passed by next spring. We discussed what went wrong last year, what we need to do differently this year and our common strategies and goals, and how the bill can be improved/rewritten for 2008. See below for more pertinent links to bill, recycling and bottle bill info, etc.

All Friends of Sligo Creek are encouraged to start getting involved.

Important web pages

Container Recycling Institute, the clearinghouse for recycling and bottle bill information
February 2007 preliminary bottle bill meeting in Baltimore, sponsored by the Baltimore Harbor Watershed Association
This was the first and only meeting before the bill received a hearing in March of 2007.
Maryland House web page on HB 839 from last session
It has bill and fiscal policy and note links.

What did we learn from last years effort? Why did the bottle bill fail?

  • No adequate preparation and foreplanning
  • Insufficient information dissemination
  • Lack of strong, committed leadership in House - Freshman senators who were not committed enough and failed to all show for crucial Environmental Matters committee vote
  • Not enough groups on board - did not know about it
  • Unfunded mandate for redemption centers unpopular
  • Montgomery County did not want to cut into recycling revenue
  • Argument that VT? lost money on their redemption program last year?
  • Bottlers opposed to labeling
  • No dedicated lobbyist
  • Volunteers lacked knowledge of House procedures and ins and outs of the bill, facts
  • Testimony was weak at March hearing and our side testified last
  • Lack of publicity
  • Groceries/supermarkets argued that redemption was contaminating, they lacked storage, would be forced to fill out onerous paperwork every month
  • Argument that out-of-staters would bring in cans/bottles and take away cty/state funds
  • Baltimore City Council did not support it after all - split between Baltimore County and harbor people
  • People do not care
  • No cross - "referencing" to Senate
  • Turf battles between groups/unwillingness to work as team
  • No money behind this from our side and opposition heavily funded
  • Political: Mike Miller, pres. of senate, controls liquor distribution. Environmental Matters Chair Maggie McIntosh was not behind bill - was focused on other environmental bill package
  • [In the past, argument that bottle redemption is too much work for older people. Used to be billed as tax on poor and minorities (in DC). DC preachers were lobbied. Negative media overload - "It is a bad law." Argument that it spreads disease (how, where?)]

How can the bill be improved?

  • Most attendees were not familiar with bill - Wendi to email all copy of it. Bill was based on West Virginia model, which emphasized the workforce issue (job creation in redemption center, self - sustaining after one year)
  • Meet with key delegates to explore bill and support
  • Rewrite bill - cheaper - source of funds for state. Investigate the charge that it takes money from county recycling. How much could be saved?

What can we do better this year? Our common strategy/tactics

  • Planning - better, earlier
  • Leadership - legislators/sponsors (Kumar Barbe, Raskin/Hamman/Hucker/Lawton, etc.). Have committed delegates write "Dear Colleague" letter
  • Get other key environmental groups on board: Baltimore Harbor Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Environ MD, etc.
  • See whether Sierra Club will let us use the name. Link to Sierra project otherwise perhaps to incorporate
  • Need to get CCE group/Environ MD to have the bottle bill on the agenda for the January meeting Research /data from other states
  • Develop meaty info/facts sheet, rebutting opposition's arguments - do better sales job. What happens after the bottle bill?
  • Use Potomac Trash Summit contacts
  • Alice Ferguson Foundation grant money to fund our effort
  • Publicity - radio, TV public service announcements, billboards, websites, blogs, news, fliers, plus celebrity endorsements (Waterkeepers/Robert Kennedy, the Cousteaus, Rachel Carson foundation)
  • City Council, county, county executive, and governor endorsements
  • Recycling industry support, Container Recycling Institute
  • Get a major supermarket chain on board (Whole Foods, MOM, Roots, TPSS Co-op)
  • Discuss why recycling rate low, litter high, incinerating of toxins
  • Get lobbyist, e.g., Pat Franklin from the Container Recycling Institute, to also testify and rebut arguments. Get Pat Franklin on board [Get labor (e.g., AFL, CIO; AFSCME is against it in MD?), teachers' union, glass manufacturers, Adopt-a-Highway, farm bureau, etc., to support us]
  • Need grass roots education about harmful plastics to change public attitude - opposition (e.g., Maryland Retailers Association, Anheiser Busch) has increased - tie in to cool city/global warming trend
  • [At hearing, make sure our side testifies last, to be able to rebut opposition]
  • Get bill cross-referenced to Senate as well
  • Fundraising
  • Save on recycling
  • Interview WV Bottle Bill leader

Key volunteer positions:

  • PR people
  • Researchers
  • Lobbyist (paid?)
  • Fundraisers
  • House and Senate liaison
  • Volunteer coordinators
  • Group liaisons

Reported by Wendi Schnaufer, FoSC Litter Chair