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Connecticut retailers asking for change in recycling program

Hartford, Conn. - A Connecticut retail organization contends the state's new mattress recycling law puts an unfair burden on retailers, and the group is asking the General Assembly to change the way the recycling program would be funded.
     The Connecticut Retail Merchants Assn. argues that in effect, the law requires retailers to fund the program since mattress manufacturers would assess them a fee for each piece of bedding sold in the state.
     While the retailer can pass the recycling fee along to consumers, the group says that process is "cumbersome and costly," and there's no guarantee the retailer will be able to recover the additional cost.
     As an alternative, the retail organization is asking lawmakers to scrap the manufacturer's fee and require retailers to add a recycling fee to the cost of the mattress. Those fees would then be remitted to the state - much like sales tax is remitted today.
     "For retailers, many of whom are small independent merchants, to take valuable cash out of their operating budget with no guarantee it will be returned is an unfair burden on these retailers," said Tim Phelan, executive director of the merchants association.
     He said retailers are "more than willing" to participate in the mattress recycling effort, but don't believe it should be funded from fees that retailers pay to manufacturers.
     Connecticut's law, the first of its kind in the nation, was backed by the International Sleep Products Assn., the mattress industry's trade group. ISPA president Ryan Trainer said he agrees that the fee should be collected at retail, but believes the collection system can be established administratively without amending the law.
     Trainer said ISPA recently formed the nonprofit Mattress Recycling Council to design and run the Connecticut program. The MRC, which he also heads, will soon be filing a written request with state officials seeking their approval of a direct retail collection system, Trainer said.
     "Specifically, the law provides that the state may administratively establish ‘alternative, practicable means of collecting and remitting such fee' to the MRC," said Trainer. "We believe that the practical advantages of our direct payment approach are strong and are optimistic that regulators will approve our proposal."
     Trainer said the mattress industry advocated a direct retail collection system during the two years the proposal was debated by Connecticut lawmakers, but that language didn't make it into the final bill.
     He said a retail collection system was part of a mattress recycling bill passed in California, but wasn't included in a similar bill in Rhode Island.
     Trainer said he was pleased to hear that Connecticut retailers are supportive of the recycling program.
     "MRC has met several times over the past months with Connecticut retailers and other stakeholders to discuss how to make the implementation process as problem-free as possible," he said.
     Phelan's group believes the recycling fee will be $10 to $50 per piece, but Trainer said MRC is still in the process of collecting information needed to calculate the fee.
     "Although the exact fee will depend on the cost of the recycling plan approved by the state, MRC's goal is for the fee to be below the fee range cited by the retailers," said Trainer.
     Phelan said his organization has scheduled a meeting on Feb. 25 at its offices in Hartford to discuss the new law.

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