Bottle bills refer to laws set in place at the state level to incentivize the recycling of containers. More specifically, they are container deposit laws which provide minimum deposit refunds on such beverage containers as beer, malt and non-alcoholic drinks. (With the exclusion of milk.) The primary purpose behind these bills is to encourage recycling of reusable containers. Currently, California, Connecticut, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont are the sole states with bottle bills. With recycling and more efficient waste disposal at the forefront of so many of our minds, it is unsurprising that many seek to expand the policies of these states’ bottle bills to the rest.
The basic proceedings of a bottle bill are straightforward. The distributor is paid a deposit for each bottle purchased by the retailer, which in turn, is charged to the consumer. Hence, when the consumer returns the bottle, they receive the essential refund of the deposit. (This is somewhat in contradiction to common believe since many think they are making a financial profit when they return the bottle.) The retailer then regains their deposit when the bottles are returned to the distributor. Those bottles that are not recycled directly to the retailer from the consumer and are collected by the state are often used toward the expense of the program. Other states like Massachusetts use money they gain from bottle disposals to fund environmentally friendly programs. Finally, handling and processing fees are paid to the retailers and distributors, respectively.
With such a simple process, many inquire why it is that so few states run similar programs. Still, others wonder why a national recycling service is not provided as standard part of disposal. The majority of the answer lies in the financial disincentive of the large bottling companies. Such companies oppose the bills and point to the high operating costs of such programs to process the returned containers. (To read more on soft drink companies opposition visit http://toolkit.bottlebill.org/opposition/arguments/coke-position.htm.)
Furthermore, many make the argument that curbside recycling services take care of the bottling disposal removal. This is rebutted by many with the fact that more than half of Americans do not have access to curbside recycling services. Curbside recycling of bottles is also ineffective in away-from-home consumption. Additionally, the materials that can be redeemed through bottle bill legislation are of much higher quality.
So what are the ramifications of bottle bills? Do they yield real results? California has seen an increase in recycling from 52% in 1988 to 82% in 2010 after the implementation of the bottle bill. In addition, from 2006 to 2010, bottle recycling increased by 3.5 billion, which is almost 2% of annual United States bottle consumption. Finally, littering has decreased significantly since bottle bill implementation. States with bottle bills report a reduction in bottle littering from 70 to 83% and a total decrease in littering of about 30 to 47%. For a comprehensive look into the history, laws and implications of bottle bills, visit http://www.bottlebill.org/about/whatis.htm