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Recycling: Bill targets restaurants and bars to save landfills

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol would be required to recycle certain materials under legislation expected to be introduced next year.

A statewide coalition of recycling industry representatives, environmentalists and community leaders have drafted two recycling bills, which legislators have been approached about supporting. State Sen. Ray Cleary has indicated he will sponsor the legislation, said Nancy Cave, a member of the coalition and north coast director for the Coastal Conservation League.

Cleary couldn’t be reached for comment.

“We had hoped to get it pre-filed, but it doesn’t look like that will happen, because we’re still working through it,” Cave said.

The bills have been drafted and input has been sought from agencies including the S.C. Association of Counties and the S.C. Hospitality Association. But the documents are still being refined.

There are also plans to combine the bills into a single piece of legislation, because “you really need one to help the other work,” Cave said.

A proposed Waste Reduction Incentive bill would create a $3 fee to be paid by counties and municipalities for every ton of solid waste that goes into their Class 3 landfill. Money from the fees would go into a special account and be funneled back into recycling initiatives.

The coalition proposes that half the funds go back to counties and municipalities to implement waste reduction programs, 20 percent go to establishments that would be mandated to recycle and another 20 percent would provide asset lending through the state Department of Commerce for equipment to grow the recycling industry.

The remaining 10 percent would be used by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to administer the program.

The second piece of legislation, called the ABC Recycling bill, would mandate that bars, restaurants and other establishments that have a license to serve alcohol on the premises would have to recycle plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass and cardboard containers.

The businesses would be given up to two years to implement recycling.

“Really, it would be three years, because if it’s passed this session, it takes another year for DHEC to write the regulations to support the legislation, and then that has to be approved,” Cave said. “We don’t think that’s an unreasonable amount of time to get geared up for recycling.”

There have been some questions as to why bars and restaurants have been singled out in the bill.

“There’s no doubt we need broader recycling, but we feel this is a way to begin mandated recycling in this state,” Cave said. “It’s a starting point.”

South Carolinians produce about one ton of solid waste per person every year, according to the coalition, and the state goal to recycle 35 percent of its solid waste has never been met.

“Everybody wants to do the right thing and recycle, but in some business situations, I think there is a misconception that recycling will cost them a lot of money,” said Kira Roff, a member of the coalition and president of Fisher Recycling Grand Strand. “Basically, putting this legislation in place helps all of us help businesses get going on recycling.”

Investing into recycling programs, such as Pay-As-You-Throw, which charges residents based on the amount of trash they throw away, would go a long way in motivating individuals and other kinds of businesses to recycle, added Cave.

There are also economic benefits to recycling to be considered.

“The recycling industry in this state is a growing industry,” Cave said. “In 2009 it produced 1,354 new jobs in South Carolina.”

According to the S.C. Department of Commerce and a study by Clemson University, the industry will grow by 12 percent annually.

“If recyclers see they will get feedstock — that all these restaurants are absolutely going to have to start recycling in the next two years — they’re going to come here,” Cave said. “They’ve already said they would, but they need to know they have product.”

The coalition has been working on the legislation since this summer and considered previous bills in the process, including one Cleary put forth in the last legislative session.

“We have a precedent in this state for recycling bills, though they haven’t gone anywhere, and we’re hoping this time to make something happen,” Cave said.

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