New Jersey looks at 10-cent tax on cans, bottles to help fund lead-removal projects

Phil Gregory, Newsworks

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a measure that would require a 10-cent deposit on glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle said Tuesday this proposal has a better chance than past efforts because 75 percent of any revenue it would generate would help pay for improvements in schools where lead has been detected in drinking water.

"We all know this is a billion-dollar problem and having a fund established with annual revenue is a start — even if it only covers a fraction," said Huttle, D-Bergen.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, a proponent, said the measure would deal with two environmental problems at the same time.

"We create a larger fund that goes toward making sure that we not only recycle bottles, but we recycle the infrastructure in our cities," Baraka said.

But Michael Halfacre of the Beer Wholesalers Association of New Jersey said the bill would raise money only if people don't return the bottles to get their deposit back.

"It's not a one-, two-punch," he said. "It's a low blow for the environment and for small businesses across New Jersey."

Cape May Brewing Company President Ryan Krill also opposes the measure, saying it would increase his costs.

"It turns our brewery into a recycling center. We're an FDA-approved food-processing facility, and receiving bottles back is not something that we can really do," Krill said. "We'd have to get another building. There's not really a ton of real estate left where we are, so I'm not sure how we would facilitate something like this."

Assemblyman Scott Rumana is concerned the deposit bill would hurt municipal recycling programs.

"If you take this away, you're going to give a property tax increase to every municipality across the state because now they're going to have to figure out a way to offset that revenue stream," said Ruman, R-Passaic.

Should the measure reach his desk, Gov. Chris Christie said he'd be reluctant to impose any new tax.