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Legislative panel on plastic bottle recycling to hold first meeting Wednesday

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Legislative panel on plastic bottle recycling to hold first meeting Wednesday

Sep 25, 2023 | 2:43 pm ET
By Nancy Lavin
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Legislative panel on plastic bottle recycling to hold first meeting Wednesday
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A new legislative panel tasked with reducing waste and litter from recyclable bottles and cans will hold its first meeting at the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Bill McCusker)

How to minimize the plastic bottles overflowing the state landfill and collecting along streets, sidewalks and beaches will be the focus of an 18-member legislative panel that kicks off this week.

The 18-member Special Joint Legislative Commission to Study and Provide Recommendations to Protect Our Environment and Natural Resources from Plastic Bottle Waste will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 3 p.m. The commission was born out of legislation approved in the 2023 General Assembly amid ongoing debate over how to incentivize bottle recycling, including, potentially, a bottle deposit-refund program. Charging customers an extra fee on recyclable bottles and cans, including miniature alcohol containers, and returning the money when they give the bottles back,  is a solution backed by lawmakers and environmental advocates. But local grocery and liquor store owners decried the burden it would create for their small businesses, which would be responsible for collecting the empties.

Legislative study commissions used to be where bills went to die. Not anymore.

The commission aims to find middle ground between the opposing sides, with representation from environmental and business groups, along with lawmakers. Members have until June 10, 2024 to report findings and recommendations to the legislature.

Appointed lawmakers include: Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, a South Kingstown Democrat and bottle bill sponsor; House Minority Leader Mike Chippendale, a Foster Republican; Rep. Tina Spears, a Charlestown Democrat; Sen. Mark McKenney, a Warwick Democrat; Sen. Bridget Valverde, a North Kingstown Democrat; and Sen. Thomas Paolino, a Lincoln Republican.

Other members include Terrence Gray, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; Jared Rhodes, director of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation; Topher Hamblett, executive director of Save the Bay; Jed Thorp, executive director of Clean Water Action; Tom Papa of the Rhode Island Beverage Association; Robert Swartz of the Rhode Island Alcohol Beverage Distributors; Scott Bromberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Food Dealers; Jackie Mancini of National Beer Wholesalers; Nicholas A. Fede, Jr., of the Rhode Island Liquor Collaborative; Amy Moses, representing the Audubon Society of Rhode Island; Kevin Budris, environmental attorney; and Larry Coburn, a local convenience store owner.

The meeting will be held in the House Lounge of the Rhode Island State House and also livestreamed on Capitol TV.