Letter to the editor: Bottle bill overdue for update

Pass H.175, the Bottle Bill, and bring Vermont into the 21st century.

Vermont’s House of Representatives passed an important piece of legislation last year, that updates the state’s container redemption program known as the Bottle Bill. The legislation expands the Bottle Bill program to include wine and non-carbonated drinks like water, iced tea, sports drinks, and juice in aluminum, glass and PET plastics.

Under the current Bottle Bill system, Vermonters pay an extra nickel for every bottle or can of beer or soda purchased and get the money back when they return the empty container. The program has been an incredible success since it was passed. Not only has it reduced litter, but it has also been responsible for recycling more than 10 billion beverage containers.

In recent years, however, Vermont has begun to fall behind the nine other states that have kept pace with the development of new beverages like teas, sports drinks and water in single serving plastic bottles. For instance, Vermont’s Bottle Bill covers only 46% of the beverage containers sold here, while Maine’s law covers 91 percent. Nearly every bottle bill state has updated its program to include more containers than Vermont, including Oregon, Hawaii, California, New York and Connecticut, all covering at least 77% of beverages sold in their states.

Vermont’s Bottle Bill was enacted in 1972, liquor bottles were added in 1991, otherwise the bill hasn’t changed. The 1972 nickel deposit would be worth 30 cents now if we had updated for inflation. Originally, as written, the new bill would have increased the deposit to a dime, but that provision was written out.

We know that the bottle bill works to reduce roadside waste. And consumers know that when they purchase a deposit beverage they will get their money back, it’s completely transparent. And, the manufacturers of new containers depend on the deposit system to provide the materials to make new containers. In fact some states require that new containers contain as much as 30% recycled materials.

But there’s more, according to melbournemetalrecycling.com.au: “Metal recycling is better than mining since it offers a significant net energy benefit. For instance, energy accounts for 30% of primary aluminum production costs, but recycling of aluminum scrap uses only 5% of the energy of primary production. Metal recycling is often far more efficient than mining.”

And it’s not just materials efficiency, Seattle economist Jeffrey Morris estimated: “A ton of soda cans made with recycled aluminum saves an amazing 21,000 kilowatt hours by reducing the virgin bauxite ore that would have to be mined, shipped, and refined. That’s a 95% energy savings.

“A ton of PET plastic containers made with recycled plastic conserves about 7,200 kilowatt hours.

“The San Diego County Office of Education has figured out that recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100 watt light bulb for four hours.”

Let’s do our part to clean up the waste that chokes our lands, waterways and oceans. Let’s get this bill out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and on to enactment. Let your Senator know this is the right thing to do.

Richard Butz


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