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Over 40 state legislatures convened in the first quarter of 2013 and, as in previous years, they are actively introducing legislation that has the potential to impact the glass container industry and glass bottle recycling.
Bottle Bills Move Forward
Bills have been introduced in six states so far—Arizona, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia—to create a container deposit refund program (often called a “bottle bill”). Each of these bills includes a $.05 refundable deposit, with redemption centers and reverse vending machines to assist consumers in returning containers for a deposit refund.
Research from the Container Recycling Institute has found that deposit programs have an average beverage container recycling rate of 76%, and the 10 states with deposit laws represent more than 50% of all recycled beverage containers in the U.S. These recovered containers are a valuable source of recycled material for purchase by manufacturers, and this is certainly true for glass bottles.
Several states have also proposed legislation to expand their existing container deposit refund programs, including covering more types of beverage containers. As most of these programs were put into place in the 1980s, many new types of single-serve beverage containers were not initially included.
Iowa, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont are considering the inclusion of water and other non-carbonated beverage containers as part of their program. Glass-packaged, non-carbonated beverages, including tea and similar drinks, offer glass container manufacturers more access to flint or clear glass beverage containers for the manufacture of new
Citizens are typically supportive of these programs. A Des Moines Register survey published early this year found that 64% of Iowans support expanding the existing bottle bill to require deposits on bottles and cans containing juices and waters, adding to the current deposit on containers for alcoholic beverages and carbonated soft drinks.
In February, the New York Public Interest Research Group released two surveys indicating that the 2009 amendments to New York’s container deposit law have had a positive impact on retailers and redemption centers in New York state. They also found that further expansion of the bottle bill to include additional beverage containers would foster additional job growth and small business development.
Bar and Restaurant Legislation on Tap
Legislation targeting container recycling at bars and restaurants is also on the table. In 2008, North Carolina signed into law a bill requiring ABC permit holders (bar and restaurant owners) to recycle all beverage containers served on-premise. This legislation has proven very successful, more than tripling the state’s glass bottle recycling rate over the past four years.
This year, the Maryland legislature is considering similar legislation, with the exception that the proposed bill would exempt restaurants and bars in counties with a population of 150,000 or less from the program, targeting on-premise bars and restaurants in more dense urban areas.
EPR Legislation Moves Forward for Packaging
Finally, extended producer responsibility (EPR) is likely to be considered by a few states in 2013. While the framework varies from state to state, at its core, EPR creates a producer responsibility organization that is in charge of ensuring that certain recovery rates and fees are attached to covered items. The brand owners are typically tasked with developing the details of the program (and associated fees), which are often finalized after the legislation is signed into law.
While earlier EPR legislation considered more difficult-to-recycle items such as paint, certain medical devices, and mattresses, this has expanded over the past few years to include packaging and printed materials. So far this year, only Rhode Island has introduced EPR legislation that would impact glass containers and other packaging. The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) is concerned that collection, processing, and consideration of end markets for glass and other products covered in this bill remain unknown.
The GPI and its members actively monitor and support state and federal legislation that will improve both the quantity and the quality of recycled glass containers, while ensuring economic efficiency and environmental benefits. Learn more about our advocacy activities around glass recycling at www.gpi.org.
Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Ceramic Industry, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.