Beverage Container Deposit Refund Programs
U.S. state legislators in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont have recently considered replacing BCDRPs with universal single-stream recycling.
Today in the U.S., 10 states operate beverage container deposit refund programs (BCDRPs), which provide the most consistent source of quality recycled glass (cullet) for the glass container industry. It’s estimated that these programs supply anywhere from 65-80% of the recycled glass used to make new bottles and jars. Similar to sand, soda ash and limestone, recycled glass is a critical manufacturing input. It reduces energy use at the glass plants by one-third for every ton incorporated into the overall batch while also reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. glass container industry purchases about 2.4 million tons of recycled glass annually, and its appetite for recycled glass to produce new bottles and jars has steadily increased over the past several years. The average recycled glass content in food and beverage containers nationwide is roughly 33%—an increase of nearly 8% from 2005.
Recently, U.S. state legislators in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont have considered replacing existing BCDRPs with universal single-stream recycling. The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) and our member companies strongly oppose these efforts, as the recycled glass that results from single-stream programs is lower quality, requiring glass plants to increase their use of raw materials.
Typically, glass beverage containers recovered through BCDRPs do not require sorting at a materials recovery facility, eliminating the need to remove non-recyclables and solid waste. This results in a very low residual rate, so cities and municipalities do not need to pay additional disposal or “tip” fees at the landfill. Through return-to-retail or beverage container redemption centers, BCDRPs also reduce the volume of containers processed through traditional single-stream “one-bin” curbside programs.
Delaware is the only state to repeal its BCDRP, replacing it with a $.04, non-refundable tax on glass beer bottles and smaller PET carbonated drinks. While the state’s MSW landfill diversion rate increased 8.1% from 2010-2014 since this shift, the starting point for diversion measurement was unusually low, and this rate also includes tonnage from a landfill ban on leaf and yard waste. In addition, prior to statewide single-stream implementation, only 17% of Delaware residents had access to curbside collection, among the lowest access rates in the U.S.
States with both programs in place generally experience higher overall recycling rates. The BCDRP complements existing single-stream recycling and captures additional beverage containers consumed away from home. The beverage containers redeemed through the BCDRP also lessens contamination at materials recovery facilities, raising the commodity value of glass and all recyclable commodities headed through its system.
Through ongoing stakeholder dialogue and collaborative efforts, GPI and its member companies are working with materials recovery facilities and other industry stakeholders to improve the quality of glass within the single-stream collection system. The adjustment of existing sorting equipment at the materials recovery facility, installation of bunkers for glass received, and enhanced glass cleaning lines are just some examples of the investments being made.
BCDRPs around the country are an integral part of the glass container manufacturing process and supply chain. While single-stream recycling is a successful compliment to BCDRPs, it is not a suitable replacement. GPI and our member companies will continue efforts to support and work to strengthen existing BCDRPs around the country.
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.