What could a bottle bill do for Maryland?

Today Delegate Maggie McIntosh (chair of the Environmental Matters Committee) will announce that she is introducing a bottle bill for Maryland to the General Assembly. For those of us in the trash world, this is a very big deal. But it’s a big deal for all Marylanders, too!

A bottle bill, or container deposit, applies a refundable charge to every plastic, glass, and aluminum beverage container sold in the state (generally, milk products are excepted). Yes, your six-pack of beer will cost a few cents more at the store. But when you finish the beverage, you return the empty bottles to a recycling facility, and get that money back! There is no net cost to you.

There is a tremendous cost to uncontrolled trash, though. Both the Anacostia River and Baltimore Harbor are deemed “impaired” by trash under the Clean Water Act. Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Baltimore Counties, as well as Baltimore City, are under federal mandate to clean up the mess. Soon, all counties with stormwater permits will also have to address trash. Many of those solutions cost money.

Virtually all of those obligations could be met with this one law.

Beverage containers generally make up at least half of the trash in the Nash Run Trash Trap, maintained by the Anacostia Watershed Society. See this photo from last May, where the trash was sorted by category:

A refundable deposit on those containers will reduce that load to almost zero. People are significantly less inclined to litter when they know the container has value. Those that do “get loose” into the world are quickly picked up by people who cash it in–whether it’s youth groups, homeless individuals, or entrepreneurs.

Maryland currently recycles just 22% of these containers. Michigan, which has a 10-cent deposit, recycles 90%!

Container deposits create new jobs in the recycling sector, as people are needed to collect and sort the returned containers.

This is a very exciting proposal for Maryland, and we are delighted to be working with our friends at the Recycle for Real campaign and Chairwoman McIntosh on this opportunity.

5 Comments on “What could a bottle bill do for Maryland?

  1. Yes! Bottle deposits are the most effective way to increase recycling and reduce litter. Why let valuable resources be dumped into landfills or litter from our streets and into the bay, when recycling them can create more jobs? The beverage industry and retailers association is full of misleading information, or in my opinion, misinformation and lies. Industry loves to pass along the cost of waste disposal, litter cleanup, and recycling collection to local government and tax payers. We're going to pay the costs one way or another, and a deposit program is an effective program that works! The ten bottle bill states recycle more containers than the other 40 states combined. Wow! Checkout bottlebill.org for more info.

  2. I am totally FOR bottle/can deposits. HOWEVER, where will these recycling facilities be? And how will the car-free access them? Bottles are HEAVY enough without having to haul them on public transit or having to pay for a cab. This seems punitive to the lowest economic levels of society.

  3. Baltimore's #3 “Dirtiest American City” (TRAVEL+LEISURE). Maybe this bill, a better clean up effort by Baltimore's DPW, and citizens refraining from dumping and littering public spaces may do the trick for Maryland and Baltimore.

  4. @WashingtonGardener: The recovery aspect will be determined by each county. Counties with larger numbers of car-free residents will, I'm sure, provide accessible solutions. Also, there is an opportunity for creative thinking and new businesses. A company in Maine picks up the bottles from the customer's home, and pays them the deposit minus a handling fee. It's as convenient as curbside and still puts most of the deposit back in the consumer's pocket.

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