Bottle Bill

Our most successful recycling program

Thanks to the Bottle Bill, we recycle more than 75% of covered beverage containers, while only recycling about 36% of other containers.

We’ve fought for years to protect and expand Vermont’s Bottle Bill, and have celebrated some important victories along the way. But there’s more to be done.

By modernizing the Bottle Bill to cover additional beverages like bottled water and wine bottles, we can keep an estimated 100 million more bottles and cans out of Vermont’s landfills and off our roadsides every year.

VPIRG is working to modernize the Bottle Bill to cover non-carbonated beverages like bottled water, wine, and sports drink containers and to raise the deposit to ten cents.

Check out the links below to learn more about our Bottle Bill work.

6 Reasons to Modernize Vermont’s Bottle Bill

1. Increase Recycling Rates

Modernizing the Bottle Bill will result in an estimated 397 million additional containers recycled. This is equal to 15,300 tons of additional material, or the weight of 10,200 cars, captured for recycling.

We can look to states that have modernized their Bottle Bills to demonstrate the benefits of the program on recycling rates. After Oregon increased its deposit value from a nickel to a dime in 2017, redemption of Bottle Bill containers spiked from 59% to 82% that same year. One year later, the Bottle Bill was further expanded to include noncarbonated beverage containers. Redemption rates have since risen to 90%.

2. Minimize Greenhouse Gas Emissions

With more containers being recycled, Vermont’s GHG emissions would go down. This is because producing containers from virgin materials is extremely energy intensive: about 2.3 million American homes could have all their energy needs met with the amount of energy required to make all the beverage containers produced in 2010. When containers are made from recycled materials, however, energy use declines significantly; increasing the amount of recycled plastic in water bottles to 100% from current levels would decrease GHG emissions by nearly 90%.

The GHG savings under an expanded Bottle Bill would increase from 48,400 metric tons of CO2 to 64,500 metric tons of CO2; a savings of 16,100 metric tons.

3. Reduce Litter

It’s estimated that modernizing the Bottle Bill would decrease the number of beverage containers littered by as much as 66%; approximately 13 million fewer containers littered.

This would result in reduced cleanup costs, as well as a significant reduction in litter found in waterways.

4. Producers – Not Taxpayers – Cover the Cost

The Bottle Bill works under an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model, where the producer is responsible for the material it creates throughout its life cycle. Given the immensity of our waste crisis, we need to be moving all of our waste systems towards EPR and strengthening and protecting our existing EPR systems.

5. Promote a Circular Economy

Materials that go through the redemption system are much cleaner and therefore of a higher monetary value than materials that run through the curbside recycling system. Therefore, those products can be sold for more and turned into new bottles and food-grade materials, rather than downcycled into road-pack, sand, and other products that are difficult or impossible to recycle again. Expanding the Bottle Bill means more containers being remade infinitely, and not downcycled to only one more use.

A modernized Bottle Bill further benefits the circular economy when accompanied by recycled content standards, which ensure that any bottle sold in Vermont contains a minimum amount of recycled plastic, rather than virgin petroleum-based materials. This is not a radical idea—many beverage distributors have already pledged recycled content goals, including Coca-Cola who pledged 50% recycled content in their bottles by 2030. Other brands that have pledged recycled content include: Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Keurig-Dr. Pepper, PepsiCo, Walmart, Ikea, and Evian/Danone, among others. A minimum recycled content requirement for drink containers would spark investments in recycling infrastructure and promote innovation and creativity in the design of new containers.

6. Boost Vermont’s Economy

As of 2019, all the unclaimed nickels from bottles that are not redeemed go back to the State to fund clean water initiatives. A modernized Bottle Bill will bring in more cash flow to the State for clean water—almost $6 million in unclaimed deposits—with the potential to fund other significant environmental causes as well. This should include funding waste reduction, recycling, and other solid waste programs.

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