Alert 684: Markell to sign "recycling"/container deposit shutdown bill June 8th

"In my mind, there is no question that the law [SB 234] will be found unconstitutional," Rep. Oberle said.  "I’m offering my school breakfast bill in anticipation of that eventuality."
–Rep. Bill Oberle
"The eleven states with container deposit programs report an average container recovery rate of 78 percent.  Those without, an average rate of 28 percent."
–Alan Muller

ACTION:  Do you think Governor Markell should sign SB 234?  Let him know how you feel: 302.577.3210;

The long strange story of recycling in Delaware has been getting stranger

SB 234, promoted as a "universal recycling" bill, is supposed to make "single stream" curbside recycling available to everybody in Delaware with the tradeoff of shutting down Delaware’s "bottle bill."

SB 234 passed the Delaware Senate on April 29, 2010 and the House of Representatives on May 11, 2010. 

Governor Jack Markell’s office has announced he intends to sign it on June 8th at 10:00 am at the infamous Cherry Island Garbage Dump belonging to the even more infamous Delaware Solid Waste Authority (the "Garbage Empire").  This is probably an appropriate locale as SB 234 allows the Garbage Empire to implement whopping rate increases while being relieved of most recycling responsibilities.

See Alert 682: A decision time for recycling in Delaware for a more detailed analysis.

Most Delaware residents probably don’t care much about losing their bottle deposit program, which was never effectively implemented.  They probably think that increased access to curbside recycling is a reasonable tradeoff.  In any case, most Delaware orgs don’t, at this point in time, have the balls to go against the Governor.

Other’s see it differently:  The beverage industry has been on a national crusade to kill container deposit programs and Delaware would be it’s first big success. 

Some businesses involved in container recycling, such as Tomra, tried to push back but they did it by hiring some of Delaware’s most reactionary lobbyists and PR people.  They put up a bogus "citizens advocacy coalition " website.  They made no common cause with any real recycling advocates in Delaware.  We have no idea how much money they spent but it likely did them little good.

Here’s another take from Tennessee:

Dear Governor Markell:

I’m writing to ask for your sympathy not as a fellow Delawarean (I live in Tennessee) but as a fellow American. If Delaware passes SB 234 as written, its impacts will be felt far beyond your borders.
If Delaware votes to implement universal curbside at the expense of its beverage-container deposit–becoming the first state in history too do so–it will have the unintended effect of threatening container deposits everywhere. Bottle-bill opponents will hold up the bloodied carcass of the Delaware bill as an example in Vermont, where a repeal effort has been quietly underway for more than a year; and they will use it–indeed they are already using it–to cast doubt on proposed deposits in states such as my own, where recycling rates are an anemic 10 percent, where our landscapes too often look like the one in the attached photograph (Third Creek, Knoxville), and where public support for a deposit is an astounding 80 percent or better (I can send you the results of two independent polls).
Support for Tennessee’s bill comes not only from the general public but from container processors and manufacturers, countless small businessmen (including small grocers), tourism professionals, sportsmen, farmers, county mayors and county commissioners, schools, the nonprofit sector (especially those serving the special-needs and homeless communities), and a growing, bipartisan list of legislators (the bill had 18 cosponsors in the session now ending).
In other words, the only thing blocking the will of the people in this matter is the lobbying power and campaign spending of special interests, primarily the beverage industry.
Please understand: We recognize that beverage distributors and retailers have legitimate objections to the old type of deposit program. This is why our bill has been painstakingly vetted and revised to eliminate retailer-operated collections, distributor-operated pickups and distributor-paid handling fees. Our bill relies entirely on voluntary "redemption centers" operating entirely on container scrap value, unclaimed deposits and the value of any other recyclables they choose to accept from the public and local businesses. Material is sold directly to scrap buyers and end-users; deposits are paid into, and refunded out of, a central fund managed by the state or a designated third party; and every stakeholder group, from distributors to grocers to scrap dealers to curbside managers to manufacturers to conservationists, all have a seat on an ongoing advisory panel.
Tennessee’s bill is so sensitive to all interests, in fact, that it is being touted as a model not only in drafting new legislation in states such as Oklahoma but in updating existing legislation in states such as Iowa. It could certainly be adapted to the deposit program in Delaware.
The fact that narrow special interests continue to oppose even this popular, privatized system suggests that they don’t care as much as they claim about improving our nation’s recycling rates, easing our burden on landfills or cleaning up our littered streams and roadsides.
It suggests that their support for "green" jobs and manufacturing is conditional and a bit selfish.
And it suggests that they don’t care as much as they should about minimizing the energy and other costs of making the tens of billions of brand-new bottles and cans they require each year. These costs are the main reason deposits now have the support of three major container-commodity trade groups-the Aluminum Association, the Glass Packaging Institute and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers-all of whom see well-designed bottle bills as an effective, legitimate way to achieve their recycling goals.
(Curbside is useful, they acknowledge, but the quality of container material tends to be compromised and the volumes recovered are invariably smaller.)
So, please, Governor Markell, do not consider this a done deal. Please do what you can to see that SB 234 is amended to retain and strengthen your deposit bill. Delaware is a small state, but the implications of its vote tomorrow are enormous.
Thank you.
Marge Davis, Ph.D.
Pride of Place/Tennessee Bottle Bill Project

An anti-government/anti-tax "think tank" in Delaware called the Caesar Rodney Institute has been crusading against SB 234 and came up with the argument that it’s a revenue bill and as such requires a 3/4 majority vote to pass.  We don’t know how good this argument is but some House Republican leaders have latched onto it, thinking that if Markell signs the bill subsequent litigation will kill it on these constitutional grounds.

Then, we have House Bill 401, which–assuming the bottle deposit repeal fails legal challenges–would take the unclaimed deposits, estimated at $3 million per year, and use them " … to provide a secure ongoing funding source for universal school breakfast in Delaware in order to provide a healthy breakfast to all students in public and charter schools, regardless of family income."  This bill is sponsored by Reps. Bill Oberle, Dick Cathcart, and D. Short.  It was rolled out with the endorsement of the Food Bank of Delaware.  Probably nobody would disagree with the idea of ensuring that Delaware school kids had breakfast (how many don’t, now?), but money spent on this obviously couldn’t be used to support recycling programs.


The eleven states with container deposit programs report an average container recovery rate of 78 percent.  Those without, an average rate of 28 percent.  What more is there to be said?

Delaware should be fixing its container deposit law, not shutting it down.

ACTION:  Do you think Governor Markell should sign SB 234?  Let him know how you feel: 302.577.3210;


In Alert 682 we wrote that PR man Sam Waltz clients "include the Delaware Solid Waste Authority and many other bad actors."  Sam called to say he hasn’t worked for the DSWA since N.C. Vasuki retired in 2006.  We believe him–but don’t make a habit of that!–and regret the error. 

By the way, Vasuki testified against SB 234.  He also told a reporter Green Delaware deserved credit for keeping garbage incinerators–NC’s real passion–out of Delaware.  A very high compliment.

Alan Muller

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