Let’s Talk Trash: What about a national bottle bill?
Ten states have bottle bills, or laws that create deposits on bottles and cans. Hawaii soon may be the 11th state. The result of these bottle bills is evident; more bottles and cans are recycled in the 10 states with deposits than in all of the 40 states without.
Colorado does not have a deposit system. In fact, Colorado has the fourth-worst recycling rate in the nation, and some of the lowest landfill disposal rates. It is inaccurately cheap to dispose of waste in our state, and recycling suffers.
In the bigger picture, more than 114 billion beverage containers were thrown away instead of recycled in 1999. According to the Container Recycling Institute, this is a 50 percent increase in bottle and can waste since 1992. The general trend is toward more waste and less recycling.
But, a faint glimmer of hope is on the horizon for recyclers around the nation. This glimmer of hope comes in the form of a National Bottle Bill (S.2220), introduced on Earth Day of this year by Sen. James Jeffords (Vt.). While the concept of a national container deposit system has been laughed at in previous years, as bottlers and distributors have lobbied heavily against bottle bills, this attempt presents something different.
This national bottle bill, the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002, will put the responsibility of creating the system on the beverage industry. The government will mandate a 10-cent deposit, set the performance standard for recycling (a target of 80 percent recovery) and ensure compliance.
The design of the system will be left up to the beverage industry, giving it flexibility and opportunity for creative solutions to waste. This national bottle bill won’t cost taxpayers, and actually may save taxpayer dollars by reducing disposal and litter collection costs.
Additionally, this bottle bill could create thousands of jobs nationwide. The state of Iowa has reported 1,200 additional jobs were created when it enacted its bottle bill. It has been estimated about 100,000 jobs could be created if every state had a deposit system.
Sen. Jeffords national bottle bill holds great potential for increasing recycling rates across the board, but it holds another great potential for change as well. This aptly named bottle bill is a step toward producer responsibility. In other words, it encourages the industry to be responsible for the waste stream that it creates. This concept is being tested in many industries in European nations, and in the American computer and electronics industry. It is a step toward sustainability.
Recycling rhetoric is ingrained in the American public’s mind. The benefits of recycling are long-term. Recycling saves landfill space, reduces pollution, and conserves resources like water and energy. It feels good. But, recycling needs a boost; it just can’t compete with subsidized disposal costs.
The national bottle bill faces a huge uphill battle. It will be a true miracle if it passes the Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on July 11. But, if it sounds good to you, drop a line to your senator and voice your support. Talk about it. The dialogue has been initiated nationally.
Carly Wier is the executive director of Summit Recycling Project, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to minimizing waste in Summit County and surrounding areas.
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