This past week, the Senate passed an amendment by Sen. Anthony Pollina (Washington County) to S.285, which would reclaim Vermonters’ nickels to fund recycling or other important state programs. This amendment must still win approval in the House, but this is a huge achievement that VPIRG has been working toward for decades.
Vermont’s popular ‘Bottle Bill’ was passed in 1972 and it’s still our most successful recycling program. Under the Bottle Bill, more than 75% of containers get recycled — That’s far higher than the rate of recycling for water bottles or other non-deposit containers. But after more than forty years, this law needs some modernizing. VPIRG has been a strong advocate for 1) expanding the Bottle Bill to include more beverages, many of which didn’t exist back in 1972 like bottled water and sports drinks, and 2) stopping the give away of millions of dollars in unclaimed deposits to the beverage industry. The Pollina amendment addresses the latter.
Vermont is one of only three states that still gives away all of its unclaimed deposits to the beverage industry. Most states with bottle redemption use all or most of the unclaimed deposits to support environmental programs or other vital state interests. For instance, Massachusetts uses the unclaimed nickels to fund their Clean Environment Fund, which helps to finance projects such as composting and solid waste reduction.
With the Trump administration putting environmental programs on the chopping block, this is no time to give away all of Vermont’s unclaimed deposits to multi-million dollar beverage companies like Coca-Cola. Rather than using all tax payer dollars to fund Vermont’s recycling and environmental programs, we could instead put the millions of dollars of unclaimed deposits towards these initiatives.
The Pollina amendment is being considered as part of the debate over S.285, which deals with state composting requirements. We actually have some strong concerns about S.285 and are working to address these concerns as this bill is deliberated in the House.