The bottle bill will be taken up again in 2022, according to Sen. Christopher Bray, chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.
Bray said he was aware there were some concerns raised about the bill being “held up,” but said the bottle bill was just following the normal procedure for a bill in the Vermont Legislature — it missed the crossover deadline so it gets held until the beginning of the next session.
“We’ll be taking it up when we get back. We’ve done some work on the bottle bill before. It’s actually part of a much larger context of how do we handle solid waste in the state of Vermont,” he said.
The bill would update Vermont’s bottle bill, which requires a five cent deposit on soda and beer bottles and cans, to include containers for other beverages. It could also increase the deposit to 10 cents.
A nickel spent on each bottle that would be redeemed when the bottle was returned once had strong appeal, according to Bray.
“It was enough money that it made people sit up and take notice and it motivated people to stop littering and recycle, bring these bottles back whether they got refilled or crushed and turned into new bottles or whatever happened to them. It was a way of reducing litter,” he said.
The version sent to the Senate during the most recent session does not include language to increase the deposit to a dime, but Bray said he understood why legislators looked at an increase.
“Is a nickel enough of a signal to people to motivate them to recycle. I think it’s a fair question,” he said.
Bray said if the bill was being written as a new bill this year, the equivalent of the original nickel deposit would be more than 30 cents.
Bray noted the original bill which was enacted about 50 years ago, needed to be updated for several reasons, one of them being that there are more beverages available to modern consumers.
“It does not make complete sense to people when they say, ‘Hold it, I just bought a can of hard cider and a can of beer. One has the nickel deposit and the other doesn’t. Why would we do that?’ The beverage market has changed so much that it begs the question, has the bottle bill kept pace with the changing marketplace?” Bray said.
The version that left the Natural Resources committee in the Vermont House does no include milk or dairy products among the beverage containers potentially affected.
Bray, while he said he didn’t want to sound too “philosophical” about the issue, described its importance.
“Every single thing we buy, that’s then going to pass through our household or business, has go someplace after,” he said.
An important consideration is plastic, used in many beverage bottles, and which isn’t easily removed from the environmental.
Rep. Kristi Morris, D-Springfield, said the bill attracted some controversy when it went through the House committee on Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife, including opposition from the representatives of smaller redemption centers, where some feared they would be overwhelmed with returns, and companies like Casella Waste Management.
In an opinion piece, John W. Casella, chairman and CEO of Casella Waste Systems, called “single-stream” recycling the “most successful, most environmentally and economically sustainable recycling program” in Vermont.
“We don’t need an expansion of the bottle bill, we need to continue to focus our efforts on education and understanding how we can all recycle better, together,” Casella wrote.
However, Morris said he believed there was a lot of “public interest from our core constituents around the state,” who believe a monetary deposit will reduce roadside litter.
In particular, Morris said there seemed to be “wide interest” in adding water to the products covered by the bill.
Morris said he believed the general concept of the bill was intact from the time it was introduced until it was approved by the committee, but he noted there were several amendments including the removal of milk and other dairy products from the final version.
Morris said he heard a lot of opposition, but also a lot of support for the proposed changes proposed this year to the original bottle law.
Bray declined to speculate on what may happen with the bill when it’s taken up in 2022. He pointed out he is the chairman of the committee, but doesn’t “direct what we do.”
“But my sense is, there is real interest (among) the committee and I have one myself on revisiting this topic and making some progress,” he said.