Expansion of Bottle Bill would create jobs

A recent study found that expansion of Vermont’s bottle bill to include water bottles and other non-carbonated beverages could lead to an increase of jobs in the state, according to a new study by the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) called, “Returning to Work: Understanding the Domestic Jobs Impacts from Different Methods of Recycling Beverage Containers.”

“Vermont’s Bottle Bill is not only good for the environment, but it’s good for the local economy as well,” said Charity Carbine-March, environmental health advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). “By simply updating this tried and true program, we could be increasing recycling in the state and creating much-needed green jobs at the same time.”

Several studies on jobs and recycling have been released this year, and they all show recycling to be an area of jobs growth even during these difficult times. This study is different because it looks specifically at US jobs related to beverage container recycling. The study authors also created a user-friendly jobs calculator, which is available on CRI’s web site (www.container-recycling.org). According to Carbine-March, VPIRG is currently in the process of using the calculator to determine the exact number of jobs that could be created should Vermont update its Bottle Bill to include non-carbonated beverages, wine, and hard cider.

Overall, the study finds that different recycling methods create different numbers of jobs, and deposit-return systems create 11 to 38 times more jobs than a curbside recycling system relative to beverage containers, with the range due to system parameters and system performance.

“The time for expanding Vermont’s Bottle Bill is now. It’s already the state’s most effective recycling program, but updating it could produce a significant number of new green jobs at a time when people need them the most,” said Vermont State Senator Anthony Pollina of Washington County.

Prepared by CM Consulting and Sound Resource Management, the study examined the three most common U.S. collection methods for beverage containers: beverage container deposit programs; single-family curbside; and multi-family and “enhanced” curbside, which includes community drop-off bins.

The study explains that the primary driver of jobs in any recycling system is the sheer volume of material entering the system. Container deposit-return (CDR) systems generate dramatically higher volumes of beverage containers than curbside systems, an average of 76 percent recovery in CDR states compared to just 24 percent recovery in non-CDR states. In Vermont, the Bottle Bill is the most successful recycling program in the state, achieving an 85% recycling rate for beverage containers covered under the program.

The secondary driver of container-recycling jobs is the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers needed to collect, sort and transport the materials. CDR systems, in which containers are handled more or less individually, employ an average of 7.34 FTEs per 1,000 tons of containers, while curbside systems require an average of 1.66 FTEs in an automated system and 4.46 FTEs in a manual system.

Glass bottles manufactured in a CDR state have six times more recycled content than bottles made in a state without a container deposit (72 percent vs. 12 percent). The study also looked at beverage container recycling using virgin raw materials. It found that ten times more US workers are employed in recycling PET than in producing an equivalent amount of PET resin from virgin raw materials (9.9 FTEs per 1,000 tons of recycled PET vs. 0.6 FTEs per 1,000 tons of resin from virgin raw materials).