By Anna Chambers
Edited by Kara Apel
South Carolina alcohol permit holders could have to recycle glass bottles and other recyclable containers using a tax-funded recycling program under a proposal in the state Senate.
The S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee is to meet Wednesday to discuss the bill, which would require recycling by businesses, like bars and restaurants, with permits that allow drinking on-site.
"Well we know there are many thousands of bottles, cans coming out of bars and restaurants," said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, one of the sponsors of the bill. "While some have recycling plans in place, many don't."
The purpose is not to impose a big, new program on anyone, said Sheheen, who lost to Republican Nikki Haley in the 2010 gubernatorial race.
For mom-and-pop places, it might mean nothing more than having a bin for recyclables and a program to pick up the recycling off the street, he said.
"It's an important step forward and we hope we can work out a plan that would not impose on bars and restaurants," Sheheen said.
A portion of the accommodations tax, which comes from restaurants and businesses, would be used to fund the program through Department of Health and Environmental Control. It is not yet clear how much of the tax money will be used.
If the bill becomes law, businesses that don't comply could be fined $200 to $500, with fines increasing for each offense. They could also lose their alcohol permits.
Darrell Barnes, owner of Yesterday's Restaurant and Tavern in Five Points, said it recycles everything from cans and bottles to cardboard boxes.
Yesterday's participates in a pilot program run by DHEC, which gives the restaurant bins to separate glass bottles by color. However, the business has to pay for cardboard to be recycled.
Cardboard would be included under the proposed statewide mandate.
"You pay for it either way, either in taxes or fees," Barnes said. "There's no free lunch."
Recycling also helps save restaurants money because they don't have to pay for trash pickup as much, "and you're doing a warm, fuzzy, green thing," he said.
Bey Rutherford, the owner of Bey's Sports Bar in Five Points, said he is "behind the law 100 percent."
"We would love to recycle everything," Rutherford said. "We try to be as green as we can be."
Bey's started a recycling plan last week because of the amount of glass the bar throws out.
A similar law took effect in North Carolina three years ago. Restaurants and bars with alcohol permits must recycle, but also must pay for it, according to Tom Rhodes of the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach. Some businesses in smaller areas have the option of taking their recyclables to a recycling center.
The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission inspects to make sure businesses are following the law. If not, they could lose their permits, but Rhodes said he doubts the commission would pull a permit for a first-time offense.
Aside from the possible permit loss, fines range from $300 to $600.