Monday, May 10, 2010

SB 234 and the House

What can we expect when Senate Bill 234 comes up on the House agenda tomorrow?
First, I think it will come up. House Republican leader Dick Cathcart said he needed a few days to allow members to offer amendments. I know of one being drafted, and there may be others, so Cathcart won't have any other reason to try to delay further. The three members of his caucus who signed on a co-sponsors of SB 234 will not want to hold up the bill much longer.
Once it does hit the floor, I would look for the same complaints about the 4 cent fee being a tax (often spelled in all caps in comments on this blog and elsewhere) and the mythical trash police.
One amendment being prepared would retain source separated handling instead of the single stream system proposed in SB 234. I am convinced this would be a mistake.
Simply put, a source separated system would be less effective and more expensive than the single stream system envisioned in SB 234.
It would be less effective because participation goes up when consumers don't have to separate. It would be more expensive because separate handling and processing increases costs at every step of the value chain.
The City of Wilmington uses the same trucks, same crews and same routes for recyclables as for trash. You cannot reduce handling costs any further. Modern MRFs (Multiple Recycling or Recovery Facilities) have proven to be a cost effective way of separating materials for reuse.
I don't think proponents of source separated recycling are wrong. It's been the standard method for a long time. I and many others dutifully delivered bottles, cans and newspapers to the DSWA's igloos for years. But I have changed my mind as I have learned more about the advantages of single stream recycling. In particular, I have seen the system boost participation and lower handling costs in Wilmington.

Others in favor of source separated handling, like the out of state Glass Bottle Institute, want to retain source separated handling of glass to protect their commercial interests. I see no reason to maintain an inefficient system to keep them happy.
I have previously noted the extensive meetings, discussion and consultations that have led to this bill over the last months and years. One or more recycling skeptics will offer amendments, but at the end of the day I hope and expect the House to call the roll and put SB 234 to a vote.

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