Vermont’s Bottle Bill is responsible for recycling approximately 10 BILLION beverage containers since it was passed in 1972. That’s incredible!
It’s true, the Bottle Bill has been Vermont’s most effective recycling law for generations. Since it took effect in 1973, it has:
- Reduced roadside litter, saving an estimated $34 million in litter cleanup costs,
- Produced huge quantities of clean material for recycling including 35,000 tons of PET plastic, 100,000 tons of aluminum, and 700,000 tons of glass, and
- Saved enough energy to power 185,000 Vermont homes for a year.
The Bottle Bill now also provides $3 million annually from unclaimed deposits to help protect clean water in the State. No wonder a 2011 poll found more than 9 out of 10 Vermonters support the law.
But after nearly 50 years, it’s time to modernize the program as nearly every other state with a Bottle Bill has done. For instance, Vermonters buy more than 200 million single-use plastic water bottles each year and none of them are covered by the Bottle Bill. (Nobody was buying water in little plastic bottles in 1972.)
Last week, VPIRG’s Executive Director, Paul Burns, and Environmental Associate, Marcie Gallagher, testified in the House Natural Resources Committee on the importance of modernizing Vermont’s Bottle Bill. The Committee is considering legislation (H.175) that would expand the containers included in the program to cover water bottles, wine, hard cider, and more. It would also update the deposit from five cents to ten cents because a nickel isn’t worth what it was 50 years ago.
You may be asking yourself, why is this so important? What’s the big deal if I put my empty bottles in my blue bin rather than returning them for redemption?
Well, consider this: 72 percent of all glass collected under the Bottle Bill is recycled into new glass containers while virtually none of the glass collected in your blue bin is. It’s too contaminated. In fact, just weeks ago, the Chittenden Solid Waste District paid $400,000 to settle a legal case stemming from the years it spent secretly dumping 18,000 tons of glass that was likely too dirty for recycling.
It’s not just glass that’s an issue. Plastic pollution is a huge and growing threat. And now many states (including Vermont) are considering laws to require plastic beverage containers to include minimum recycled content standards as California has done. Plastic manufacturers admit that there’s no way they can meet these standards unless more high-quality plastic material is collected from Bottle Bill states.
VPIRG has been pressing to modernize our Bottle Bill for years (literally), and this is our best chance to make it happen in recent memory.
Right now, Vermont’s Bottle Bill covers less than half of all beverage containers sold in the state, while states like Maine, Oregon, Hawaii, California, New York, and Connecticut all cover at least 77 percent of the beverages sold in their states. If they can do it, why can’t Vermont?