With release of ANR Bottle Bill study imminent, groups call on legislature to expand the popular program

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2013

Montpelier, VT – An Agency of Natural Resources-commissioned Bottle Bill study is expected out this Friday which, despite the program’s overwhelming popularity and undisputed success, is likely to prompt a renewed debate over the future of the program. Bottle Bill supporters directly impacted by the legislature’s actions – including small businesses and community groups – gathered at the State House on Thursday to make sure their voices are heard.

Bob Coloutti of Terrill Street Discount Beverage, a redemption center in Rutland, reminded legislators “The redemption program provides strong employment across Vermont. It employs a lot of people who might have a tough time finding other jobs. If it went away, a lot of places and a lot of jobs would go away with it. We should be expanding redemption and growing jobs.”

Like many community groups across the state who use bottle drives to help fund their work, Sue Skaskiw of Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals participated in today’s event, adding “Bottle drive funding is vital to my organization’s efforts to help others. Donations help us protect animals whose care-providers are unable to afford the costs of critical medical care, food, and shelter for animals in need. Our deep gratitude goes out to those who donate bottles and cans to make our work possible, and we appreciate how the Bottle Bill helps us fund this important work.”

The forthcoming Agency analysis is the product of a prolonged and impassioned Senate floor debate over a proposed expansion of the Bottle Bill last spring, which concluded with the legislature requesting a study from the Agency on whether to repeal, maintain, or expand the program. The study’s mandate is almost entirely focused on comparing the costs of operating the bottle redemption system to single-stream recycling. To ensure a broader range of issues are considered, VPIRG and the Container Recycling Institute have co-released a new analysis which examines some issues beyond the scope of the Agency’s analysis.

Click here to download: A Clean and Green Vermont: A Special Report on the Environmental and Economic Benefits of Vermont’s Bottle Bill

Lauren Hierl, environmental health advocate at VPIRG stated, “Instead of taking the beverage industry’s advice on what’s best, Vermont should base its decisions on real-world examples of what actually works. Today we’re releasing a new analysis that looks at best practices around the world, and the results are clear: an expanded Bottle Bill will be best for our environment and communities.”

Susan Collins, President of the Container Recycling Institute noted, “There are over 40 container deposit systems in place around the world, and for the past 4 decades, these programs have consistently achieved superior recycling rates, excellent litter reduction and outstanding environmental performance compared to all other forms of recycling. In addition, the high quality and high quantities of recyclables support manufacturing jobs in the aluminum, plastic and glass industries, and help keep these good jobs in the US.”

Bottle Bill supporters include a broad coalition of Vermont environmental groups, which made clear the program’s environmental benefits – from increasing recycling to decreasing litter and saving energy – are key issues the legislature should prioritize when deciding whether to expand it. The coalition includes Audubon Vermont, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Law Foundation, Audubon Vermont, Sierra Club–Vermont Chapter, Toxics Action Center, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and VPIRG.

David Ellenbogen of the Sierra Club noted, “Beverage containers represent the first type of packaging for which manufacturers must recognize the cost of properly handling what is left when the product is consumed. This should only be expanded upon. To repeal the Bottle Bill would represent a giant step in the wrong direction.”

Ilana Copel, Co-President of Vermont Students Towards Environmental Protection (VSTEP), the group who successfully campaigned UVM to stop selling bottled water on campus, added “This issue isn’t just about the facts. It’s also about what we value as a society. Do we value trash on our roadsides, or do we value beautiful streets? Do we consider it worth our time to prevent millions of bottles and cans from going into landfills, streams, and lakes and to instead reuse those resources? We support the Bigger Better Bottle Bill as a way to conscientiously move from wasting these limited resources towards promoting a healthier, more sustainable Vermont.”

The report co-released today by Container Recycling Institute and VPIRG, A Clean and Green Vermont: A Special Report on the Environmental and Economic Benefits of Vermont’s Bottle Bill, examines ways in which the Bottle Bill is uniquely effective at collecting and recycling beverage containers, and how the program could become even better:

  • Places with both bottle deposit programs and curbside recycling consistently have higher recycling rates with lower overall costs.
  • On-the-go beverage containers make up a significant portion of consumption (30-50%), and recycling options away-from-home are limited, making the financial incentive of a bottle deposit particularly important and effective.
  • Litter is significantly lower in Bottle Bill states, as demonstrated with new studies from the Midwest and Hawaii.
  • The quality of material collected through the bottle deposit program is higher, and particularly for glass, that means it can be continually recycled, whereas single-stream glass is currently “downcycled” into single-use material like landfill liner.
  • Vermont’s Bottle Bill could become even better by implementing best practices established in other regions.

Senator Anthony Pollina concluded “The Bottle Bill is effective, it’s popular, it’s a job creator and a revenue generator. By keeping the unredeemed nickels – like seven out of ten Bottle Bill states already do – we could bring in millions in new revenue to help the state fund important programs. What more can we ask? Expanding the Bottle Bill is really a no brainer.” We encourage people to share their views on the Bottle Bill and draft ANR report at an upcoming public hearing on: Tuesday, March 12, 5:30-7pm, Pavilion Auditorium, Montpelier.  Click here to RSVP!

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