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Bottle bill would reduce litter, increase recycling

States with both a bottle bill and curbside pickup have higher rates of recycling.

Every year in Maryland, 3 billion beverage containers are thrown away or end up as litter. That is 3 billion plastic, glass and aluminum containers that end up being landfilled, incinerated or washed up on beaches and river banks.

Just 25 percent of the beverage containers purchased in our state actually end up being recycled. Estimates from the American Beverage Association provide one explanation; 30 percent to 50 percent of beverage containers are consumed away from home in locations such as parks, schoolyards, boats and cars, where little or no recycling collection is available.

Another reason is that despite the fact that most people in Maryland now have access to curbside recycling, they don't all participate. The Maryland Redeemable Beverage Container Recycling Refund and Litter Reduction Act — aka the "Bottle Bill" — offers a financial incentive for people to recycle and collect litter.

The reduction in litter and increased recycling rates afforded by a Bottle Bill will provide both economic and environmental benefits to our state. Less litter will reduce litter collection costs to counties and improve property values. Increased recycling will divert material away from the municipal waste stream, reducing the tipping fees paid by counties to dump trash.

Environmental benefits include the reduction of toxic pollutants to Maryland's air and water. At the Wheelabrator Incinerator in Baltimore City, thousands of plastic bottles are incinerated every day. Burning plastic bottles releases heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, along with toxic chemicals such as dioxin, a known human carcinogen. According to the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, "burning plastic is a major source of toxic air emissions" that eventually end up in our water as well.

Expanding single-stream curbside recycling alone will not achieve an acceptable recycling or litter reduction rate. Curbside is now available to most single family homes in the state and currently recovers only one out of every four bottles and cans. Independent research from the Congressional Research Service concludes that both a bottle deposit program and a curbside recycling program are necessary to achieve high recycling rates.

The data clearly show that states with both a bottle bill and a curbside program have recycling rates of at least 67 percent. Michigan, Oregon, Washington, New York and Connecticut all demonstrate this point. Under this system, all have experienced dramatic increases in container recycling and a dramatic reduction in litter and waste disposal fees.

For the extraordinary privilege of living in this beautiful state on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay we also have significant responsibilities to protect, preserve and restore the land, air and water. The Maryland Redeemable Beverage Container Recycling Refund and Litter Reduction Act will achieve measurable improvements to the quality of life in Maryland.

I urge you to please contact your state and local representatives and ask them to support the Maryland's Bottle Bill.

Bess Carlson

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