Sunday, February 20, 2000

Container bill faces long haul


Many in N.Ky. oppose it

BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKFORT — It's called the “bottle bill,” but a piece of state legislation is far more inclusive than the name suggests.

        The proposed law would impose a 5- to 10-cent deposit on a number of drink containers. Most glass bottles would be covered under the bill, which is pending before the Kentucky House.

        But plastic and aluminum containers would be covered as well, and a tax would be applied to wrappers, cups and other container materials sold from fast-food restaurants with a drive-through window.

        The bill would also mandate that each county provide curbside garbage pickup.

        “You hear "bottle bill' and you think bottles,” said Tom Litzler, director of sales and marketing at Covington-based Remke's Market Inc.

        “But it goes much farther than that. It covers a lot of items people put in their gro cery cart.”

        The bill is one of the most contentious issues facing lawmakers this session. It barely passed a House committee last week and even the bill's sponsor — powerful House Floor Leader Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg — has said that in its present form the legislation will have a difficult if not impossible time winning approval in the House.

        “I just don't believe it's right for” Northern Kentucky, said House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, who voted against the bill when it passed the House budget committee.

        “People are overwhelmingly against it,” he said. “They aren't against the environment, but they are against this bill.”

        Given the tough road the bill faces, Mr. Stumbo has said he may rewrite and amend the bill before it comes up for a full House vote.

        In its present form the bill would cover:

        • Glass, plastic and aluminum containers for alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, most fruit and vegetable juices and drinks, sports drinks and water. Depending on the size of the container, the deposit would be 5 to 10 cents.

        Milk, infant formula, cereals and juices in containers of 24 ounces or more or packaged in units of three or more would be exempt.

        • Bags, wrappers and other containers from fast-food restaurants with drive-through windows would be taxed at one-quarter cent.

        Mark Shircliffe, vice president of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, said consumers will pay more for food and beverages if the bill passes.

        “You look at that one-quarter cent on fast-food wrapping,” said Mr. Shircliffe, who has been lobbying against the bill. “Restaurants will increase their costs to cover that cost.

        “So when you buy a cheeseburger, fries and a drink you're going to be paying more because of the tax on the cheeseburger wrapper, the container for the fries and the plastic cup with the soft drink,” he said.

        Even supporters of the bill have said that the bill is essentially a tax to raise money to clean up litter. That will hurt the legislation's chances in the Republican-controlled Senate provided it even passes the House.

        Unlike glass bottle deposit pro grams that ended in the mid-1970s, retailers won't be paying the deposits to customers who return the containers to stores.

        Instead, residents will have to collect the containers and then drive them to a reclamation center in their county.

        Mr. Stumbo told the House budget committee last week that legislation is needed to spur litter cleanup. His native eastern Kentucky is particularly affected by litter because not all counties have curbside garbage or recycling programs.

       



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