10-cent refund on the table

TRUMAN – Minnesotans soon may be able to get a 10-cent refund on all beverage containers, but there is controversy attached to the proposal.

“Some said we’ve done all we can with recycling, this may be the push we need,” says Billeye Rabbe, solid waste coordinator for Faribault and Martin counties.

The idea is to increase recycling by giving people an incentive to return bottles, instead of throwing money away, Rabbe said.

The Legislature directed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to produce a report with recommendations for a statewide “recycling refund program” for beverage containers, commonly referred to as “the bottle bill,” that achieves an 80 percent recycling rate, according to the agency website at pca.state.mn.us

The report of more than 30 pages was prepared by Reclay StewardEdge.

“This study found that the recycling refund system described by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would result in increased recycling of approximately 107,000 tons of beverage containers in the state, or approximately 1.9 billion container units,” the report’s summary says. “In addition to the increase in quantity of beverage containers recycled, the quality of the collected commodities would be improved over that of the existing recycling systems.”

The 10-cent refund would apply to beverage containers up to 1 gallon, to be paid at time of sale.

Containers affected would include alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink containers, including beer and wine; carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks; and flavored and unflavored bottled water, fruit juice, milk and tea and coffee drinks, regardless of dairy-derived content.

Exceptions would include syrups, liquid concentrate or condiments; a drug, medical food or infant formula; dietary supplement; or a frozen product.

The report added that costs are estimated at $29 million to operate the recycling redemption system, incurred by beverage producers; less than $1 million incurred by the state of Minnesota; and undetermined costs incurred by consumers in transporting beverage containers to redemption sites.

Reclay StewardEdge also concluded that a projected $5.6 million will be realized by local authorities and individual single-family home waste and recycling service subscribers; and undetermined savings to state and local authorities for reduced litter cleanup.

The study envisions increases in recycling refund system jobs, glass beneficiation jobs and state law enforcement and regulatory jobs, but a decrease in supermarket and grocery jobs, beverage industry production and distribution jobs, residential recycling collection jobs, and waste collection and landfilling jobs.

“The total job impact is forecasted to be a net gain of 1,064 jobs,” the study concluded.

To view the entire report, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=20460 online.

The agency is accepting public comments on the draft cost-benefit analysis through Wednesday. Email comments to Wayne Gjerde: wayne.gjerde@state.mn.us

Rabbe has informed Faribault and Martin County commissioners that she expects redemption centers to be set up, meaning places such as Prairieland could lose some content.

Ultimately, “it probably won’t do anything to Prairieland,” she noted.

“The part I worry about is county recycling and what it will take out of it,” Rabbe said. “We have excellent recycling rates in Faribault and Martin counties right now, especially with single sort in Fairmont. People are doing a good job of recycling.”

Rabbe says there is more opposition to the bottle refund than support, from what she has seen. Beverage companies have said they do not want it, and convenience stores said they would have to add workers to handle the load.

“We believe the system proposed has far too many unanswered questions and flaws to be fairly evaluated for passage by the legislature,” Brian Sams, Redwood County Recycling coordinator, wrote to the agency.

A press release from RecycleSmart Minnesota called the report “flawed” and “misstates state investment.”

“The new scheme to impose a 10-cent deposit on beverage containers would be a damaging step in the wrong direction,” said the release from RecycleSmart, a coalition of retailer, food and beverage businesses, farm organizations, grocers, restaurants and distributors.

“The proposed deposit scheme would cost $219 million per year, not the $29 million contained in the MPCA draft report,” said Tim Wilkin, RecycleSmart Minnesota spokesman. “While the report talks about the $179 million required annually to run the more than 400 proposed redemption centers, it doesn’t recognize the costs consumers would experience in transportation, which we estimate as $40 million a year.”

One of those expressing support is Marianne Bohren, executive director of Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Duluth.

“We believe the time is right to implement a beverage container deposit program designed to [incentivize] the increased recycling of beverage containers,” she wrote. “It is just such the dramatic change and incentive needed to achieve recycling goals across the state, and enjoy beverage container recycling success similar to the 11 states with beverage container deposit programs in place.”