The Vermont House of Representatives made quick work today of overriding Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of legislation designed to modernize the state’s popular Bottle Bill program. Even with five members who had supported the bill absent today, the vote was 112-32, an extraordinary margin for an override.
Supporters included Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, and independents. Every Democrat present voted in favor of the override with one exception, Kate McCann of Montpelier. A two-thirds margin was necessary for the override to prevail. Seventy-seven percent of the legislators present voted to override.
“This vote was not about politics, it was just about legislators doing the right thing for their constituents,” said VPIRG’s executive director Paul Burns. “Legislators who looked closely at this bill, regardless of party, found that it will make the state’s most successful recycling law even better. That’s how you get more than three quarters of the House of Representatives to override the governor.” VPIRG has been one of the leading proponents of modernizing the Bottle Bill.
Marcie Gallagher, VPIRG’s environmental advocate, applauded the House vote. “This is a great win for consumers, small businesses, and the environment,” she said. “An updated Bottle Bill will mean better recycling, less pollution, and more convenient redemption locations all around the state.”
The bill (H.158) is intended to modernize a law that has been on the books for more than 50 years. Key attributes of the bill are that it would:
- Require a minimum of three redemption centers per county, along with a redemption center in any densely populated downtown and in any municipality of 7,000 or more people.
- Promote clean air, clean water, and a cooler climate by collecting many more containers each year to be recycled into new products (often new beverage containers) again.
- Exempt small retailers from the redemption program while streamlining the process for redemption centers.
- Expand the scope of the program beginning in 2027 to cover more beverages such as water, sports drinks, hard cider, and wine.
“The Bottle Bill has been Vermont’s most successful recycling and anti-litter program for the past 50 years,” Gallagher added. “But many of the most popular beverages today didn’t exist in 1972 when the program was established. It’s time to update the law as nearly every other state with a bottle deposit program has done.”
Vermont’s Bottle Bill covers about 46 percent of beverages sold here. By contrast, Maine’s program has been updated so that it covers more than 90 percent of beverages.
It’s estimated that over ten billion containers have been recycled through Vermont’s Bottle Bill program since it was first implemented. The program has consistently maintained redemption rates of 75%or greater, even when national recycling rates have plummeted.
Bottle Bill supporters point out that virtually every container returned for redemption is recycled into another product – often a new beverage container. In contrast, materials collected through curbside recycling tend to be more contaminated and therefore much less valuable.
For example, the Chittenden Solid Waste District paid a penalty of $400,000 after being caught dumping glass that had been collected for recycling between 2013-2018. CSWD had dumped an estimated 18,000 tons of glass over that period because its material was too dirty to market.
Beverage redemption programs are increasingly popular worldwide, particularly as nations grapple with the mounting problem of plastic pollution. Approximately 600 million people now live in areas covered by Bottle Bills. That number has doubled in the last five years.
In Vermont, a poll completed in 2021 found 88 percent of the state’s residents in support of the Bottle Bill, and 83 percent favored expanding it to cover more beverages as the current legislation would do.
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