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Category — Connecticut

Bottle bills now cover water bottles in 2 whole states

I stand corrected (2/3/09): Now there are 5 (five!) states whose bottle bills cover water: California, Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, and Connecticut.

Last week Connecticut  joined Oregon in expanding its container deposit law to cover bottled water in addition to carbonated beverages.  (You can read about it in the Hartford Courant.) Environmentalists have been fighting for decades for this rule change. Why did their efforts succeed this time? The economy:  lawmakers also decided unclaimed beverage deposits – potentially more than $40 million a year – will revert to the state instead of to bottlers, where they used to go.

Some consumers – and many bottlers – think the deposit is unfair: why target beverage containers and not, say, peanut butter jars? Because most peanut butter isn’t consumed on the go, and peanut butter jars don’t litter our highways, woods, and waterways. All containers should be recycled, of course, but bottled water has had a notoriously low recycling rate – as low as 14 percent in recent years. But there’s good news: According to a recently published, but unavailable-to-the-public, report from the National Association for PET Container Resources, water bottle recycling has risen. From an International Bottled Water Association press release:

“According to data from an earlier 2006 bale content study for all beverages, the number of PET bottles counted per pound was approximately 12. In 2008, the total number of PET bottles increased to 13.78, a reflection of the dramatic increase in water bottle collection, as well as the continued lightweighting of other plastic containers. The 2007 NAPCOR study on water bottle recycling has determined that the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4%, representing a significant 16.42% increase over the 2006 recycling rate of 20.1%.”

I asked Betty McLaughlin, executive director of the CRI, how to interpret the news. She said, “This is good news of course, and we applaud the improvement.  On the other hand, it is plainly obvious that we need to embrace other collection systems, beyond municipally funded or subsidized curbside and drop off systems if we wish to achieve more aggressive targets.” In other words, we need more, and broader, bottle bills. She continued: “The eleven states with container deposit legislation [bottle bills]]get 66-95% return rates for their beverage containers, so those high numbers in those 11 states skew the overall national rate. Years ago, the American Chemistry Council used to report separate figures for recovery rates for carbonated soft drinks (covered under 11 bottle bills) and other PET containers, but in 2004 they stopped doing that.  So, we have interpolated numbers since the last available reported number in 2004 for carbonated soft drinks (33.7% ) and the rate for all other PET bottles (14%).  Without hard numbers, we say the recycling rate for non-deposit PET is probably less than 20%. “

February 28, 2009   No Comments