Bottle deposit? Better composting? Lawmakers to talk trash today

Bottle redemption center
Bags of empty plastic bottles wait to be recycled in Brooklyn, N.Y. New York State's bottle deposit law offers 5 cents per returned bottle or can.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

State lawmakers agree we need to recycle more, but how we achieve that goal could turn into a battle at the Capitol this year.

Some DFL lawmakers and environmental groups will be pushing legislation to establish a 10-cent deposit on all beverage containers, citing data showing the 10 states with deposit laws have dramatically higher recycling rates.

The issue is expected to receive some attention today at a House hearing on municipal waste and recycling.

• What: House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee hearing on municipal solid waste and recycling
• Where: 5 State Office Building
• When: 1 p.m. Tuesday

The state's recycling rate has been flat at roughly 40 percent in recent years. Some say the first step is to boost recycling goals, which haven't been updated for two decades.

"We ought to be looking at increasing composting and recycling," Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said Monday during a legislative forum organized by a group called Environmental Initiative. "It's an attainable goal."

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For the Twin Cities metro area, Hornstein said, that goal should be a recycling rate of 60 percent by 2030. He said the metro should also look to composting 15 percent of food waste by 2030.

"To send that to a landfill rather than to have it composted is outrageous," he said.

A recent trash composition study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found that nearly a third of Minnesotans' trash in 2012 was food waste. That same study found that millions of aluminum cans and plastic bottles are being thrown away each year.

But some interest groups, including beverage manufacturers, hope lawmakers can come up with legislation that doesn't involve a deposit. Under the deposit plan the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency studied, beverage manufacturers would pay up to $29 million a year for the deposit program's operating costs.

During the legislative forum on Monday, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said boosting the state's recycling rate requires new thinking.

"This is so wrong and so back to the '60s and '70s," he said of the deposit proposal. "How can we not be recycling bottles and cans? I mean it is so simple to do that stuff the right way. And I think there's a lot we can do, and I hope we have good debate, and I hope it doesn't pass, and I hope we can begin to change some things."

Lawmakers today will also hear about an alternative to the deposit law that aims for more consistent recycling practices through an industry-led recycling system.