The five-cent deposit on bottles has been the same since 1978.

It’s been more than 40 years since Connecticut lawmakers enacted the CT Redemption Bottle Law, known as the “Bottle Bill.” The  CT  Bottle Bill became law in 1978, and at that time a five-cent deposit was put on the bottles of water, beer and soda. That same five-cent deposit remains today, 42 years later. In our present economy, the five-cent deposit fee is inadequate.

The present Bottle Bill does not include iced teas, sport drinks or juices. These three categories of drinks have become extremely popular and therefore they now need to be included in an updated and expanded law. Most of the bottles in those categories are plastic, and they need to be removed from the waste stream and included in the bottle redemption law where they will be redeemed instead of becoming part of Connecticut’s waste stream.

Although some people put juice, iced teas and sport drink bottles into their recycle bins – these bottles  actually do not get recycled anymore – instead they enter the waste stream and get burned or landfilled. There are harmful effects to human environmental health from burning or burying plastic.

Eleven states have enacted bottle bills: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont.

Oregon, in 1971, was the first state to pass a Bottle Redemption Law. At that time they specified a deposit fee of five cents for each bottle redeemed. Wanting more bottles returned and removed from their waste stream, Oregon in recent years raised their deposit fee to 10 cents which accomplished that goal.

Michigan established its redemption fee at 10 cents a bottle in 1976, and Michigan residents redeem their bottles at an impressive rate of around 89%.

Michigan and Oregon are the only ones that require a deposit fee of 10 cents, and they have shown that this amount assures a much better rate of return.

Among the 11 states that have bottle bills, Connecticut has the lowest rate of bottle returns. According to the Bottle Bill Resource Guide, Connecticut’s rate of returns is only 50.7%.

Better rates of return are tied to higher deposits and that is shown in other countries as well as Michigan and Oregon. In Norway, where the deposit is roughly equal to 25 cents, the redemption rate of bottles and cans is 91%.

These examples show that Connecticut not only needs to expand its Bottle Bill Law to include juice, sport drinks and iced tea bottles, but Connecticut also needs to raise their deposit rate from 5 to 10 cents.

Disposing of trash is costing all the towns in Connecticut a lot of money and they are looking for ways to reduce the amount of trash they need to collect and dispose of.

If we look at the town of North Haven as an example, the municipality is spending around $675,000 a year to remove their trash, in what they call “tipping fees.” Tipping Fees are the amount of money a town pays to a waste processing facility to remove the towns trash.  This fee is usually based on a “per ton of trash” and the tons presently add up quite quickly.

Tipping fees are rising everywhere in the state because facilities in the state that receive garbage are coming under cost pressures, and there are fewer viable outlets to dispose of all the trash that towns are now accumulating.

As a result, Connecticut towns are paying much higher tipping fees. Recently, these unavoidable costs have risen from $20 to $22 per ton across our state. When the Hartford incinerator closes next year, towns can expect tipping fees to become even more expensive for them.

The economics of managing the state’s trash dictates that Connecticut must reduce its waste stream. The best way to do that right now, without causing disruptions or creating whole new infrastructures,  is to pass an expanded and updated Bottle Redemption Bill.

Nancy Alderman is President of Environment and Human Health, Inc.

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