Maryland General Assembly Trash Roundup

By now you’ve probably heard that the Community Cleanup & Greening Act did not pass in the 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly. We fought hard and had some successes along the way, but given the heavy load of challenging legislation in this session, we couldn’t quite float to the top. Thanks so much to all the activists and organizations that spoke out in support and contributed to the effort, and tremendous thanks to our dedicated sponsors, Delegate Mary Washington and Senator Brian Frosh.

But there were several bills related to litter, and of interest to our members, in this session. How did we do there?

– Prince George’s County bag fee: Unfortunately, after successfully getting through the County delegation, the bill to give Prince George’s County the power to establish its own bag fee failed in the House Environmental Matters Committee. I examined the path that proposal took on Greater Greater Washington back in March. The County now faces the choice of trying a third time in the General Assembly, taking the five-cent fee to the ballot, or looking at other methods to reduce bag use and litter. We’re in those conversations and will keep you posted.

– Bottle bill: HB1115/SB875 sought to require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to produce a concept for a container deposit system and present it to the General Assembly and the Governor for consideration. This would be a first step in creating a “bottle bill” as exists in 10 US states and Guam (as well as numerous countries). These systems increase container recycling rates from a typical 25 percent to 75 percent or more, dramatically reducing litter. Unfortunately this bill failed to receive a vote in committee in either the House or Senate.

– Plastic bag recycling: Delegate Stephen Lafferty and Senator Joan Carter Conway sponsored industry-supported bills to push for a recycling solution to bag litter, by requiring bag manufacturers to register with MDE and implement a recycling program (extended producer responsibility), as well as require retailers to offer bag take-back recycling programs for shoppers. While the proposals passed the Senate, they did not receive a committee vote in the House. I wrote about these proposals during session, and how they were a poor substitute for real, impactful litter-reduction legislation, so this failure is good news for trash-free advocates!

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