Majority of Vermonters Support Bottle Bill

More than 4 out of 5 also want it updated to cover more containers.

Vermont’s Bottle Bill is not only one of the state’s most successful environmental programs, having recycling more than 10 billion containers since 1972, it also may be the most popular. 

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group released brand new statewide polling data on Tuesday that show 88 percent of Vermonters support the current Bottle Bill program with just eight percent opposed. And as a proposal to modernize Vermont’s container redemption program moves toward a crucial vote in the House, the poll suggests overwhelming public support for a key provision of the legislation. 

H.175, now being considered in the House Ways & Means Committee would expand the scope of Vermont’s law by covering water bottles, sports drinks, and wine, among other things. The VPIRG poll, conducted by the independent firm, Lincoln Park Strategies, found 83 percent support for such an expansion, with 64 percent of Vermonters strongly supporting the idea.

These findings demonstrate just incredible public support for the Bottle Bill and for legislation to update it. In fact, the Bottle Bill may be the only thing in the state more popular than Phil Scott right now! In a poll done last month by the same firm, Gov. Scott was viewed favorably by 80 percent of Vermonters.

According to the poll, 91 percent of Vermonters have used the current law to return containers for redemption to a retailer or redemption center. Among those supporting the law, the top three reasons given were because it reduces litter, increases recycling, and protects the environment.    

On February 26, the key environmental committee in the House passed H.175 on an 8-3 vote. 

“The Natural Resources, Fish, & Wildlife Committee heard from a wide range of witnesses as we considered legislation to update Vermont’s Bottle Bill,” said Rep. Amy Sheldon, Chair of the Committee. “Ultimately, we passed the bill with bipartisan support not only because it will be good for our environment, but also because our constituents made clear that they supported the legislation. This poll confirms a remarkable level of public support for updating the law.”

Support for expanding the scope of Vermont’s container redemption law is strong across the political spectrum. Seventy-two percent of self-described Republicans support the update, as do 78 percent of Independents, 90 percent of Democrats, and 94 percent of Progressives. 

“In these highly polarized times, it’s very unusual to see the breadth and depth of support for a program as we see for Vermont’s Bottle Bill,” said Stefan Hankin, President of Lincoln Park Strategies. “Vermonters don’t merely like the container redemption law, a large majority of them believe strongly that it’s time for it to be updated.” 

Vermont has fallen behind other states with container redemption programs in recent years. Approximately 46 percent of containers are covered under Vermont’s Bottle Bill program today – mostly soda, beer, and liquor. In contrast, Maine covers 91 percent of beverage containers sold there. 

“The Bottle Bill is by far Vermont’s most successful recycling program and people love it,” said Marcie Gallagher, environmental associate with VPIRG. “But after nearly fifty years, it’s time to update the law to include beverages like sports drinks and single-serving water containers that just didn’t exist back then.” 

The deposit placed on non-liquor containers under the program has remained a nickel since the law was passed. Adjusted for inflation, a 1972 nickel would be worth about 30 cents today. H.175 would update the deposit to a dime. Public support for that change, however, was more mixed according to the poll. The data show 50 percent of respondents supporting the deposit increase with 47 percent opposing it, a statistical tie.  

“There is no question that an increase in the deposit would provide a greater incentive for consumers to redeem their containers,” said Gallagher. “Many people don’t realize that clean Bottle Bill containers are a more valuable commodity and are more easily recycled into new beverage containers instead of being downcycled for one last use like construction material or road aggregate.”

The poll found that when asked about what should happen to discarded glass containers, Vermonters strongly favored turning the glass into a new bottle as many times as possible over crushing it and using it as construction material. The breakdown was 67 percent for new glass bottles versus 19 percent for construction material.     

The Chittenden Solid Waste District paid $400,000 last December to settle a legal dispute with the Attorney General related to its secret dumping of approximately 18,000 tons of glass that was likely too contaminated to be marketed successfully. In contrast, nearly 100 percent of Bottle Bill containers are successfully recycled.   

Vermonters know the Bottle Bill is good for recycling and waste reduction. It’s also good for our environment and economy. That’s why we’re urging legislators to modernize the program by adding hundreds of millions more containers this year.

The Lincoln Park Strategies survey of 400 Vermont voters who voted in 2020 was conducted March 11 to 13 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9% at the 95% confidence level.

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