Bottle Bills

posted in: Environmental Concerns | 0

Have you noticed a lot of roadside trash in your area?  We see this every day.  When we were kids, we would scour the countryside for returnable bottles.  It was like a treasure hunt, those bottles had a nickel deposit on them, we would take them back to the corner store, spending the money earned on candy and gum, cleaning up the ditches in the process.

Soft drinks in refillable glass bottles declined from 100 percent in 1947 to less than 1 percent in 2000.  This reduction occurred when the use of metal cans and plastic (PET) bottles increased. During the 1960s, the concurrence of two important trends in the U.S. soft-drink industry accelerated the decline of refillable bottles. One trend was the consolidation of the bottling industry, and the other was the rise of one-way containers. This caused the undoing of the deposit laws, which intended to reduce litter and promote recycling rather than to preserve refilling.

No deposit, No return, what a concept.  Our world is now trashed with these no return plastic bottles as well as other plastics.   Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top 500 billion by 2021, far exceeding recycling efforts.  This use of plastic is jeopardizing oceans, coastlines and other environments.   A million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. However, as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles are failing to keep up.  If we brought back deposits on glass and plastic bottles, there would be less trash on the side of the road and in the landfills. Plastic bottles alone average around 15% by volume in the waste stream.

There are only ten U.S. states with bottle bills including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont.  These states recycle more containers than the other 40 states combined, have less container litter, and reduce cost to local government and taxpayers.

“The main reason bottle bills haven’t caught on is because of opposition to them by the beverage industry, which doesn’t want to bear the costs of recycling and claims that the extra nickel or dime on the initial cost of the beverage is enough to turn potential customers away.  The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) found that the beverage industry and its representatives spent about $14 million in campaign contributions aimed at defeating a national bottle bill between 1989 and 1994.  Meanwhile, members of a Senate committee who voted against national bottle bill legislation in 1992 received some 75 times more in beverage-industry PAC money than those who voted in favor of the bill.”

One hundred percent of plastic bottles could be made out of recycled plastic or vegetable based containers.   A new approach is necessary to create a circular economy for plastic bottles.  Please write to your government representatives and encourage them to support bottle bills.  By putting a small deposit on bottles, we can work to save our earth and the creatures that live here, including humans. In addition, we all need to make a concentrated effort to clean up the plastic mess that is already here. Our grandchildren will thank us.