Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bottle Deposits: Benefitting Our Environment, Homeless People, and Recycling Businesses

As a resident of a state that charges a five-cent bottle deposit on carbonated beverages, bottle deposits don't' seem unusual to me. However, there are only 11 states with bottle deposit laws, so it is definitely not the norm across the nation.

Most states that have bottle deposit laws in action charge an extra nickel deposit on each can or bottle of carbonated beverages. This nickel is redeemed when a consumer returns the can to the store or a recycling center. The traditional way was in flat cardboard containers. Now most places will let you bring in a whole bag and they weigh it, figuring out how many bottles/cans that weight contains, and then they pay you back your deposit.

States with bottle deposit laws are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. Oregon was the first state to adopt the law in 1971.

States with bottle deposit laws see an extra 20% recycle rate of bottles and cans. In addition to recycling, the laws have added bonuses to our states. In some states I visit it is commonplace for homeless people to sit around with cups asking for change. This is rare in a state with bottle deposits. It is common for the dumpster behind my apartment to be visited about five times a day by homeless people looking for bottles. A couple that I spoke with told me that they bring in about $50-60 each day from bottle deposits. One said he used to stand at intersections asking for change but now makes about double since he started recycling cans. His plan is to stay at a local shelter and save up money he makes on cans, and get some clothes he can use to get a job.

Michigan is the only state with a dime deposit and they see a 97% recycle rate on bottles from carbonated beverages. The same state only sees about 20% of bottled water bottles being recycled.

So bottle deposits are a great thing for our states. Why aren't more states adopting similar laws? I've hear that grocers and beverage companies are the main opponents of these laws. Why?

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