February 12, 2011

Beverage distributors call bottle-deposit law prone to fraud

They say the indictment of three people in York County points to a more widespread problem.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Newell Augur, executive director of the Maine Beverage Association, outlines the problem beverage distributors face with fraud at a news conference Friday at Coca-Cola's facility in South Portland. The problem was highlighted by the indictment of three people this week.

David Hench/Staff Writer

Augur said the association does not favor repeal of the bottle bill, but supports legislation to study it for possible changes. The industry would favor a system that has deposit bottles and cans returned to the municipal recycling stream where they could support a more robust recycling program. Aluminum and PET plastic bottles are the most valuable components of the recycling stream, so removing them deprives municipal programs of a major commodity that could help support the recycling of other products, Dumont said.

Collins, of the Container Recycling Institute, said only about half of all beverages are purchased for home use, so even successful curbside recycling programs don't collect beverages bought at restaurants or workplaces.

Craig Thorne, who runs Pack Man's redemption in Windham, says the industry could do more on its own to fight fraud. The industry should not sell cans that bear Maine's returnable symbol in other states.

That's just asking for them to be brought back to Maine for redemption, he said. He complimented Poland Spring, which now places a red stripe on bottles for sale outside the state.

Another part of the problem is education, Thorne said. A lot of people believe any returnable can or bottle has a five-cent deposit value in Maine, no matter where it was purchased, he said. They don't realize that value exists only if it was purchased in Maine.

Augur said previous analyses have suggested that about half the deposit fraud is intentional, half incidental.

The association wants a change in the law so a civil action could be filed against anyone trying to redeem 48 or more containers not purchased in Maine.

"We appreciate the state's response to this crime, but given Maine's limited resources and many other priorities, we feel that now may be a good time to strengthen the existing law, and also explore alternatives," Augur said.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: dhench@pressherald.com

 

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