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Ullman talks about trash and ways to control it

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State Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-Bucks, was talking trash.

Glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

They are strewn along the Delaware Canal, and on the towpath, which she said she helps to cleanup in the spring.

She’s fed up. And now she’s doing something about it.

Ullman held a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing Sept. 30 at Aldie Mansion in Doylestown Township on single-use plastics and how her Beverage Bottle and Can Deposit Program legislation could help increase recycling in Pennsylvania.

“The fact is that beverage containers alone make up about 6 percent of our waste stream and half of all litter shows that we need to do more to promote recycling in Pennsylvania. My legislation will support and reward recycling, which will ultimately reduce waste throughout Pennsylvania and keep our outdoor areas beautiful and free from litter,” she said.

Ullman’s program, similar to the nickel deposit glass bottlers would regularly offer before the 1960s — pay a nickel deposit, get it back with the empty bottle.

“This is not rocket science. This is re-inventing the wheel,” Ullman said. Her proposal to set up a beverage bottle and can deposit program in Pennsylvania now would include a redemption rate of 5 cents on returnable containers and a handling fee of 2 cents per container for retailers and redemption centers to help cover their costs associated with the handling and storage of returnable containers.

Additionally, any unclaimed or abandoned deposits forfeited by consumers would be recaptured by the commonwealth and deposited into the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.

Ullman’s bill is part of the House Democrats’ “Zero Waste PA” legislative package, which is aimed at reducing single-use plastics and addressing pervasive issues of litter.

“PennDOT spends upwards of $10 million a year cleaning up litter. Reducing the amount of beverage containers in the litter stream will bring a significant cost savings to taxpayers,” Ullman said.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Policy Director Natasha Fackler, on behalf of Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards, testified that the department spent $13.9 million on litter cleanup statewide in 2018.

“Litter in the commonwealth has been and continues to be a major problem,” she said. “ as the number of vehicles on the road increases, so does the amount of litter.”

More than $5 million was spent on litter pickup in the state’s southeastern region, an amount Fackler said equaled the cost to repave more than 20 miles of roads.

David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, a statewide Citizen-based environmental advocacy group with more than 175,000 citizen members, online activists and volunteers from across the state, said bottle bills are a tried-and-true program that can impact not only the environment, but the economy as well.

“Since bottle bill laws have been on the books in states cross the nation for decades, there is ample data about the likely benefits that Pennsylvania could see by implementing a similar program,” he said.

“Bottle bill legislation has been proven to be the most successful and cost-effective system to incentivize consumers, retailers and distributors to recycle,” Masur said.

States like Oregon have had bottle bills in place for about 50 years, and programs in Iowa and New York resulted in the creation of hundreds to thousands of new jobs.

Since the program is a deposit, that means that the state can also get revenue from people who don’t return bottles for a refund.

“The research shows that these laws have a variety of benefits they’re good for our environment and quality of life, they increase recycling rates, they can create new revenue sources for states without raising taxes and they are job creators,” Masur added.

Doylestown Borough Council member Wendy Margolis testified about the borough’s efforts to reduce single use plastic‘s and share the results of a recent survey.

“Many Doylestown Borough residents are extremely concerned about the impact of single-use plastics on the environment,” she said. “Many are as conscientious as they can be, but with many bars and restaurants automatically, putting plastic straws and stirrers – sometimes more than one—in beverages, and with businesses automatically handing out bags, sometimes doubling them, it’s just not easy being green.”

Nic Esposito, director of the zero waste in litter cabinet for the city of Philadelphia in the managing director’s office, said, in regards to Philadelphia’s zero waste strategy, much like litter they are focusing on personal behavior and responsibility.

“We are constantly striving to improve our recycling participation and our recycling office has launched a citywide campaign to reduce contamination of our recycle materials,” he said.

More information on bottle bills nationwide can be found at bottlebill.org.


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