Beverage distributors propose an end to bottle bill

Bobby Martino

Bobby Martino does the multi-bottle sort at M&M Beverage and Redemption Center. Photo by Bryan Pfeiffer

Vermont beverage distributors have an alternative to the state’s bottle bill and they are prepared to pay for it, an industry lobbyist told lawmakers Friday.

The proposal would replace public trash receptacles with public recycling bins. In exchange, distributors want to do away with the state’s bottle deposit law, which environmental groups praise as one of Vermont’s most successful recycling programs.

Andrew MacLean, a lobbyist representing the Beverage Association of Vermont, said distributors are willing to pay for the lion’s share of the proposed program, which would replace what he calls an “extremely expensive” bottle bill.

“We recognized that if we are ever to get out from underneath this system, we have to propose to you a system that’s better environmentally. We have to invest – not only propose it – we have to put our own money into it,” MacLean told the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Vermont distributors pay millions of dollars in handling fees to collect their returnable cans and bottles from redemption centers, which they say is an unnecessary step in the recycling chain but is required under the bottle bill.

The committee is drafting a solid waste bill, S.208, which is designed to send money to solid waste districts in preparation for deadlines associated with the state’s looming universal recycling law. In 2015, recyclables will be banned from landfills.

Under the draft legislation, the bottle bill – the state’s beverage container redemption law – liquor and large containers would be banned from the program. Now the omnibus solid waste bill has become a platform to debate the cost and benefits of a program originally designed for litter control.

Kevin Dietly, a consultant from Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants based in Massachusetts, pointed to a 2013 legislative report that shows the bottle bill costs individual Vermonters and the state $12 million each year.

Dietly, who studies redemption programs across the country, said it does not make sense to create a comprehensive recycling program with a bottle bill.

“It’s time to get rid of it,” he told the committee.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group and other environmental organizations support the bottle bill. The groups say the amount of materials recycled under the bottle bill more than doubles the state’s 35 percent diversion rate, which is the amount of material kept out of landfills.

An estimated 80 percent of the containers under the bill are recycled and reused, says Lauren Hierl, an environmental health advocate for VPIRG. She said the distributors’ proposal does not go far enough to replace the bottle bill.

“Doing some public space bins and litter cleanup is a far cry from what we achieve through the bottle bill, which is a very impressive recycling rate,” she said. “I mean it seems backward to say, ‘OK, we’ll just litter more but we’ll put more money into picking it up.’”

The legislative report says glass bottles can be worth about $20 per ton through the program.

Sen. Anthony Pollina. VTD/Josh Larkin

Sen. Anthony Pollina. Photo by Josh Larkin/VTDigger

Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D/W-Washington, sponsored S.65 last year, which would expand the state’s bottle bill to include more containers.

Pollina says the bottle bill is one of the state’s most effective and popular environmental laws.

“What we should be talking about is not chipping away at it. I think we should be talking about expanding it,” he said.

He said the state could raise about $2 million if it were to reclaim the 5-cent deposits that beverage distributors keep when consumers don’t redeem the bottles. Also, he said there are a lot of people who rely on the bottle bill for their jobs in redemption centers.

“There are not complaints about how the bottle bill works. That’s what’s so ironic about it for me. There are just constant attempts to do away with the bottle bill. If you want to do away with a law, find a law that doesn’t work,” Pollina said.

John Herrick

Comments

  1. Stephen Bertrand :

    Mr. Polina has hit the nail on the head. I just hope those plastic water bottles are included in the proposed expansion plans for the bottle bill as they end up underfoot everywhere.

    • Stuart Levasseur :

      Not only should water bottles be included, but wine bottles, juice bottles, milk containers, and the worst is energy drinks. did you know that those energy drinks don’t give you enough energy to pick up your own bottle? that’s why when you do green up day the single most popular container on the side of the road is energy drink bottles. Anohter thing we should require is that fast food restaurants print the license plate of the car receiving the bag on the bag. that way we know who to send the fine to when we pick up the trash on the side of the road.

  2. Kathy Nelson :

    The bottle bill in VT works and should be expanded, not eliminated. Putting up a few recycling bins is not going to improve how plastic and glass bottles get into the recycling system, it just means that more of them will end up in the street. The beverage companies make plenty of money keeping people addicted to sugary drinks that make people fat and unhealthy. Least they can do is keep a few people busy with collecting containers for redemption and keeping simple folks employed at redemption centers.
    I wouldn’t put much store in what someone from VPIRG has to say though. As long as Paul Burns is running that sideshow VPIRG’s credibility is on very shaky ground.

  3. Mike Kerin :

    If something works well like the bottle law it should be left intact. Although if they want to add water bottles that would make it better.

  4. Jimmy Pupa :

    When I was a child 50 years ago I could turn in soda bottles for .02 cents and get a a few candy bars. Today, I save them for Christmas stocking lottery tickets and do the drop just prior to Christmas. I also see plenty of pickers weekly along the road, supplementing income. It’s been good for the environment and should be expanded.

  5. Jamie Longtin :

    So, we are expecting those who launch their trash out the window to pull over and properly recycle their beer cans in the provided recycle containers? And those who supplement their income by picking up those launched containers so they can buy food or heat their homes will have no incentive to scour the roadsides. Civic groups who hold bottle drives will lose their income source as well as those who run redemption centers. Now, let’s add in the fact that it was recently announced that there may be no funding for VT’s Green Up day and what do you suppose Vermonter landscapes will look like in a very short time? EXPAND the bottle bill as Senator Polina has proposed in S.65 to include all drink containers and provide incentives to pick this waste up!

  6. Bradford Little :

    If anything the deposit should be INCREASED. Back when the law was enacted , 5 cents encouraged many folks not to throw the bottles away and other folks to pickup the random ones lying about…….5 cents today, does not motivate in the same manner! I’d make it 25 cents! I see a lot more bottles and cans lying around Vermont now……go to a state that has no redemption law and it is horrific!

  7. Peter Harvey :

    $12 million each year! You can frame statistics to support almost any argument. The number, without knowing how it was derived is meaningless. What the Bottle bill has done for so many decades is involve the public, make it personal, get people to think and learn about personal responsibility. What the Legislature and now this lobby for corporations is proposing is taking away that personal connection and responsibility for our part in the huge waste stream and how much big business dumps on the public. That is the big father/little child approach that says the public is and always will be too immature to be responsible for themselves, that big government or big business needs to take care of us. I have little confidence in a plan that denigrates the public. I expect both of these plans to return us to pre-bottle bill days. Who is going to pay for picking up the road side this time. How much do we already spend on that and how much more will we spend on that if either of these pushes go through? And do we really want to keep on reducing the public’s awareness and responsibility to take care of ourselves, making the public more and more helpless and dependent on government and business?

    • Deb Ty :

      Wonderful stated Peter. You have that covered. I am appalled they would yet again find a way to hurt the homeless and poor, instead of finding more positive ways to help. The amount of homelessness in VT is UNACCEPTABLE and is growing. What ever happen to our proud state and how we took care of each other? When did we stop caring for our neighbors? Where is the real VT?

  8. Deb Ty :

    Here is a perfect example of how they mess a good thing up with more of there nonsense. This law works and has worked for many years. However, I think its time to add water bottles as well as vitamin water bottles . Not to mention, this helps families and the homeless get a few extra dollars to eat, and keep the roadways clean as well. Kids like to collect and save the money as well. This is a win win law. Leave it alone.

  9. Hale Irwin :

    Improve and expand the bottle bill don’t eliminate it!

  10. Bud Haas :

    This is really a lame idea.
    It’s time to get together with New Hampshire, and the other New England states and raise the deposit to 25 cents. Period.
    More than half of the cans and bottles we pick up on our dirt road 8 miles from the New Hampshire border are Vermont Deposit containers (mostly Bud Light). The 5 cent deposit means nothing to the beer drinker.

  11. this is on of the most stupid idea I have heard in some time should be boosted to ten cents and include water, wine, energy and sports drinks never could under stand why state pick up alcohol bottles and trucked them to some where has to be a better way how many people would loose there jobs are we not trying to increase jobs in the state of vt. wish people we send to Montpelier would listen to the people that elected them instead of lobbyists and other groups whose only interest is financial

  12. Janet Santor :

    Our redemption law needs to be expanded not eliminated. As one other commenter noted, 50 years ago, bottles were 2 cents and they stopped the program because of processing costs to retailers. After that, road-sides looked like extension of landfills and there were broken bottles on the roads just waiting for a brand new tire to puncture. I know of non-profit charities and churches collecting non returnable bottles (like water bottles) and taking them to NY and Maine in huge lots to support their causes. We should deposit juice, water and other containers in our law, not abolish it.

    If we abolish it, within a year we will need to change our WELCOME TO VERMONT signs to WELCOME TO NEW ENGLAND’S LARGEST LANDFILL!

  13. Howard Dean :

    Anthony Pollina is right. The bottle bill should be expanded not done away with. The Beverage companies have been trying this for years. Check out the road sides in Alabama or Texas to see what life without a bottle bill is like.

  14. Grant Reynolds :

    I remember when I first when bicycling in Vermont, after years of doing so in Maryland. No flats! No glass on the road! In Maryland the roads were littered with broken glass. I do Green Up Day every year, and while the amount of trash I pick up is disheartening, it doesn’t include many deposit containers. Those it does go to the school to help pay for their class trip. Without the bottle law, which should be extended to wine and water bottles, we’d be back to roads littered with glass. Pass Pollina’s bill, not this piece of corporate welfare!

    • Fred Woogmaster :

      Great Falls Road, Mr. Reynolds?

  15. Connie Godin :

    Another voice to expand the bottle bill not do away with it. I also redeemed bottles for 2 cents years ago. It looks like the majority of Vermonters, not some lobbyist from Mass, wnat it and want it expanded.HATE the water/ice tea bottles littering everywhere. Barrels put out by the industry will do no good at all.

  16. Audrey Famette :

    Most definitely expand the bottle bill by passing S. 65 and increase the deposit to 25 cents.

  17. Mike Manahan :

    Expand it to include water, wine, etc and we will hire more of your kids to work! Will the Beverage Distributors? I think not! Shame on you for trying this again! Also, take a look at .10 cents-make it worth it for kids to return them!

  18. I solved the problem. I don’t buy anything in a plastic bottle, haven’t for nearly 12 years. Recycling, as we know it now, is one of the most environmentally unfriendly programs in existence. All that cheap plastic stuff at the dollar store, made in China, that’s your recycles. Yep, put on ships, hauled to the middle east melted down, formed into products and shipped back to the USA to end up in landfills. It’s insane to say the least. The most frustrating part of this is, WE PAY TO RECYCLE instead of BEING PAID to recycle. We as the servants keep cheering and applauding this process while Billionaires are being created both in US and China from our recyclables, we just keep cheering and paying. I’ll be no part of it!

    • Bud Haas :

      Yes one can opt out, but shiny blue cans of Bud Light, shiny red cans of Bud, and shiny yellow cans of Twisted Tea seem to be forever. The least we can do is make the manufacturer, distributor, and user pay for the costs they are creating.

  19. Wayne Andrews :

    The reason why you see the beer cans along the roadside is not due to the deposit be it 5 cents or 10 cents. Its due to those drinking and driving tossing the beer cans out the window in order to not get charged with an alcoholic open container.

  20. Jamie Carter :

    My problem with the bottle bill is this… a.) I’ve been screwed over some many times I have stopped bringing them back. Redemption centers count and sort at the same time and no matter what number they tell you at the end you have no recourse. Now I hate bring bottles back so I let them pile up until I’ve got $60-$70 worth…so when the guy tells me I’ve got $17 worth of bottles I’m mad. But what can you do, the bottles are already sorted… try a differen’t place with similar results.

    Why can’t I just crush them and weigh them…

    counting bottles is inefficient, space consuming, time consuming, and antiquated. If a bottle bill continues to be a part of any recycling law I hope they bring it into the 21st century. Return aluminium and recycle glass and plastic.

    • Arthur carroll :

      to Jamie Carter: I own Springfield Redemption for the past 14 years. We redeem
      bottles and cans only. The only thing we have
      to sell is an honest count for our customers.
      No soda, beer, deli or gas here. We are honest
      with everyone. We’d be glad to help you.Four
      of us waiting – any size amount, six days.

  21. Bonni eMacBrien :

    New York State has been recycling water bottles for several years now in addition to soda and beer containers. There hasn’t been any problem for NY businesses so why are these Vermont lobbying organizations for the beverage industry trying so hard to eliminate something that has been a proven winner for 20 years? Their proposal is a self serving joke on all Vermonters.

  22. “‘There are not complaints about how the bottle bill works. That’s what’s so ironic about it for me. There are just constant attempts to do away with the bottle bill. If you want to do away with a law, find a law that doesn’t work,’ Pollina said.” –

    That’s the bottomline.

    But if you want a little padding, there’s this:

    My wife and I lived in Vermont (Burlington) for awhile and saw the incredible amount of trash (bottles, cans) picked up by folk who evidently felt they made some money cleaning it up.

    Without the bottle deposits, I feel more trash would be on the ground unfortunately, and no one with theincentive to pick it up.

    My guess is, an expansion of the bill would be better for the people living in high litter areas.

  23. Mike Kerin :

    Why do they call it the “bottle bill”? It is the bottle law! Has been the law for years and years.

  24. Andy Crosier :

    The question should be framed, ” just how much is it worth to each of us to keep our highways reasonably beautiful?” Is it slightly inconvenient? Do the people handling all those cans and bottles need those jobs? Are the states that don’t have a bottle/can law roadsides a mess? Adopt a highway programs are helpful but limited success is obvious and not continuous even though 3 times a year some places. Let’s keep Vermont beautiful and keep a good thing.

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