April 16, 2014

Committee halts requirement for bars to recycle glass

A South Carolina House committee has delayed a vote on legislation that would require bars to recycle their glass bottles instead of throwing them in the trash. Republicans on an environmental affairs subcommittee said they wanted the parties involved to come up with a compromise that would not put costly new regulations on businesses.

Sen. Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) proposed making glass recycling mandatory (File)

The bill, which passed the Senate on a 31-9 vote last year, would require a bar or restaurant to come up with a recycling plan whenever it applies for a beer or wine permit. Conservation groups say the law would prevent thousands of tons of glass from ending up in landfills each year. But hospitality groups complain the law would create an additional financial burden on them and is unfair on its face.

“If you’re going to mandate, mandate for all food establishments, not just the ones that have alcohol,” said South Carolina Beer Wholesalers Association executive director Julie Cox, “Our membership recycles and most of our customers do, but it’s a business decision.”

The three GOP members of the four-person subcommittee were sympathetic to the business arguments. But the panel’s chairman Rep. David Hiott (R-Pickens) said he wanted to halt debate to see if the two sides could hammer out a compromise.

“We still have a little bit of time in this session,” he said, ”Whether or not we can do it, I don’t know. But I don’t think the issue’s dead and I think the state of South Carolina would benefit from it.”

Part of the problem is that glass is one of the least valuable objects for recyclers. According to numbers from the South Carolina Hospitality Association, it only sells for about $50 per ton, as opposed to the $1800 per ton for aluminum cans. Hiott said large amounts of glass are needed to make a recycling flow profitable– which is only likely to happen if recycling were mandatory.

The two sides will realistically have about a week to hammer out a deal. That would leave three more weeks for it to go to committee and then navigate the necessary procedural hurdles of both the House and Senate before the regular session ends on June 7.

One possible compromise that was batted around in committee would exempt bars from following the requirement if it would cost them more to recycle than to throw out the bottles.