Consultant floats the idea of placing fee on makers of plastic packaging

An environmental consultant previously hired by the state has suggested placing a “broad-based fee” on plastic packaging materials sold in Vermont to support the state’s transition to new recycling program.

DSM Environmental Services, an environmental consulting group that wrote two reports guiding policy aimed at preparing for a transition to a new recycling system, told lawmakers they could raise millions by requiring manufacturers to pay a fee on plastic packaging materials.

“Without some type of a broad based fee on packaging in general we are missing a real opportunity,” Ted Siegler, the principal for the consulting group, told lawmakers on Friday. “And I think that’s an area where Vermont really could take the next step. Which is to say relatively small fees, I’m talking less than a penny per package.”

Lawmakers passed Act 148 in 2012, which will ban new materials from the state’s landfill over the next several years, including recyclables, food scraps and yard debris. The Senate last month passed a bill designed to raise money for small private haulers so they invest in the necessary equipment to pick up new materials.

Included in the bill is an increase to the state’s franchise tax – a fee placed of haulers to dump materials in the landfill, which would be raised from $6 per ton to $7. The fee increase received some push-back in the Senate and has seen little traction in the House.

The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee took up the legislation this week.

Siegler told the committee increasing the franchise tax could encourage haulers to bring their trash to other states where they would pay less. In place of the tax, he said the state should consider more sustainable revenue sources, such as a fee on packaging.

“You’re starting to achieve a sustainable funding source and you’re starting to be able to go after food waste, the infrastructure that you need, and plastic packaging infrastructure that we don’t have that we really need,” he said. “So I throw that out as an alternative to a surcharge.”

Committee Chair Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said he does not support the increase to the franchise tax. He wants to know how existing revenue is spent and what the costs of the proposed program are before increasing the tax.

“What this bill seems to be saying is that ‘we know we have to do all of these things, but let’s collect the money now,’” he said.

He said the fee on packaging will not be included in the bill but could be discussed next session.

The bill sets up a pilot program to recycle construction and demolition debris – which accounts for about 15 percent of the state’s industrial waste stream by weight, according to a 2013 legislative report – to learn how to keep these materials out of the landfill.

The committee has not decided whether to keep the pilot program in the bill.

The Senate cut a proposal that would have required towns to join one of the state’s solid waste districts – organizations that oversee regional recycling programs – in order to qualify for state funds.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns opposed requiring towns to join districts, and said some towns that operate independently can better save costs on their own. The bill sets up a working group to review these local waste management plans.

The House committee will host a summit inviting all the solid waste districts, alliances and towns on how they manage their current solid waste plans. The conference is designed to better understand how different areas of the state manage waste

“It creates realities for us,” Klein said. “We’re going to hear from them, they’re going to tell us what they’re doing well, what their problems are, what their unique circumstances are (because) we haven’t really heard that firsthand.”

Comments

  1. Rob Simoneau :

    Forget the fees, someday we will get this right. These bottles are not “solid waste” but precious resources that can and must be recycled to save energy, reduce inflation, reduce pollution and our dependency on oil, gas and coal. New resin prices for PET the most common beverage bottle resin is 95 to 100 cents per pound. Please check the recycled prices below … you do the math source Plastics Technology Magazine.

    RPET Prices, March 2013
    PET Bottles (Clean) Pellets, ¢/lb Flake, ¢/lb
    Clear Post-Consumer 70-75 57-64
    Green Post-Consumer 60-65 52-56

  2. Renée Carpenter :

    “The bill sets up a pilot program to recycle construction and demolition debris – which accounts for about 15 percent of the state’s industrial waste stream by weight, according to a 2013 legislative report – to learn how to keep these materials out of the landfill.

    “The committee has not decided whether to keep the pilot program in the bill.”

    I hope they keep it in and find ways to organize and repurpose towards affordable housing. Burlington’s “Recycle North” (now also in Barre) leads the way.

  3. sandra bettis :

    this is win-win! plastic loses and the environment wins!

  4. Randal Murray :

    Any fees forced by the state will be passed on to the consumer, so this idea is not so good! Why don’t polititons understand how buisness works? How about we offer a tax break to the guy that recycles the plastic, which will make it cost effective to recycle it and everybody will be on board rather than charge the consumer more for somthing they may need?

  5. Ed Fisher :

    There should very much be a ‘manufacturing ‘tax on plastic . I have thought for years about the energy crisis and the oil that it takes to make plastic ! Imagine carrying your groceries out to the car in a bucket of crude oil ladies ! Where are the enviromentalist’s on this tax issue ?

    • Ann Young :

      Since very little (perhaps no) plastic is manufactured in Vermont what would a manufacturing tax on plastic do for Vermont?

      PS: environmentalists love taxes, they simply do not wish there to be business to tax.


  6. proliferation in niche products

    An entire isle in the supermarket devoted to

    paper towels and toilet paper

    An entire isle devoted to bottled water

    An entire isle devoted to snack food

    ►The result
    –huge increases in supermarket
    square footage and attendant carbon
    footprint

    We have these plastics forced on us with no other alternative. Now, our Leaders, look for ways, yet again, to make us pay thru “misdirected fees” which always trickle down to the consumer. These “feel good warm and fuzzy” laws do nothing WHAT SO EVER to decrease our problem with excessive waste!

    I would just like to point out that this is nothing more than another ‘Progressive’ ideological bigger government failed policy. It does nothing to address anything except more money and bigger government.

    “Siegler told the committee increasing the franchise tax could encourage haulers to bring their trash to other states where they would pay less”.

    No kidding Mr. Siegler! You mean like all the other businesses that have left Vermont for that reason?????

    • Ann Young :

      Transport and personnel costs might discourage all but the border towns from disposing of waste out of state.

  7. Paul Lorenzini :

    I have an idea!! Let’s build a paper bag factory.

  8. Stuart Levasseur :

    Hopefully instead of just passing the cost along we will have the option of accepting the product without packaging, or as some places do return the packaging materials to the manufacturer so they can re used again.
    OF course the will probably be more severe impact on the environment when there are more broken during shipment products filling the landfills.

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