Coalitions Build Support for State Bottle Bill Programs
Bottle bill programs represent roughly 80% of the recycled glass used to make new bottles and jars.
Over the past year and a half, coalitions in Iowa and Massachusetts have formed to protect and strengthen their states’ bottle bill recycling programs. These partnerships include environmental organizations, beverage container redemption and collection centers, some recycling facilities, state recycling organizations, and manufacturing industries.
Bottle bill programs represent roughly 80% of the recycled glass used to make new bottles and jars. Similarly, they are also a source of high-quality PET and aluminum for those industries’ beverage containers and other products. Containers included in bottle bill programs are largely kept separate from other recyclables and solid waste, allowing them to more easily meet manufacturing specifications. On average, they also recover and recycle more than double the national average for states without bottle bill programs in place.
Opposing “Repeal and Replace”
Bills have been considered in the past two legislative sessions in the Iowa and Massachusetts state legislatures to “repeal and replace” their successful bottle bill programs. The legislation in both cases would rescind the program and its $.05 refundable deposit, and put in its place a $.01 non-refundable tax on most beverage containers sold. That money would be used to fund grants for statewide single-stream (i.e., “one-bin”) recycling collection programs.
Coalition members have taken these legislative threats seriously, testified before committees, and provided tours to legislators and staff to highlight the importance of glass and other recyclables recovered through bottle bill programs. Delaware has been the only state to repeal and replace its bottle bill program. The results showed less revenue than anticipated from the beverage tax, some counties not receiving money for recycling grants and program support, and a significant increase in the contamination of collected recyclables.
Overwhelming Public Support
Earlier this year, 700 Iowa residents were surveyed for their opinion of the state’s existing bottle bill (see Figure 1). Polling found support among every demographic group, political party, congressional district and community type for keeping or expanding the existing law. Almost four out of five respondents agreed that the bottle bill has been good for the environment since being enacted in 1978, with 40% supporting its expansion to include additional types of beverage containers.
A similar poll of 600 residents conducted in Massachusetts also found strong support for the bottle bill, with over half of respondents opposing its repeal. These same respondents also believed that recycling would significantly decrease if the bottle bill was repealed.
Dovetailing with broad public support is a June 2017 Container Recycling Institute report that found the Massachusetts bottle bill program contributes at least $85 million to the state’s economy and directly employs 1,480 residents. The report also found that repealing the bottle bill would cost local municipalities an estimated $20 million per year in new recycling and associated disposal costs while leading to a net loss in employment.
Coalitions in both states anticipate bottle bill “repeal and replace” legislation to be reconsidered yet this year and reintroduced in 2018. Coalition members continue to educate legislators on the importance of these programs, as well as the high-quality recyclable feedstock they provide to manufacturers across the Midwest and in the Northeastern U.S.
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.