August 6, 2002
Mr. Allan Gerlat, Editor Waste News Akron, OH
In Steve Toloken’s article, “Bottle talk,” (July 22nd), the discussion of the proposed national bottle bill omits issues of concern to the public. It neglects to mention that for the first time in U.S. history a national bill encourages, in part, refillable beverage containers. Compared to non-refilling systems, refilling systems have many advantages including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste generation, and energy consumption. Refilling eliminates the need to find markets for green and brown glass bottles and plastic bottles. It represents the zero waste (or darn close to it) approach. On the economic side, refillable containers are far cheaper than their one-way counterparts. In Denmark, for instance, refillable 500 ml-PET bottles are 15 times cheaper than nonrefillable bottles (on a price per filling basis).
Toloken’s article and the Waste News editorial, “Bottle it for a while” (July 22nd) point to one industry estimate that a national bottle bill might cost $4 billion. We think this figure is grossly inflated and misleading. It does not take into account the environmental savings as well as the potential for a deposit system to cover its costs through refilling, the avoided costs of disposal, and unredeemed deposits, or the float. In New York State $70 million to $80 million is kept in industry coffers. Nationally the float could be between $1.3 billion to $2 billion. The current bill allows for industry to keep this huge sum if it reaches an 80% recovery level. A better approach would be to sequester these funds for investment in recycling and a refillable bottle infrastructure. In California, the float is used for projects relating to beverage container recycling and litter cleanup. Furthermore, the argument that a bottle bill will take away revenue from existing recycling programs is a red herring. In reality, any loss of revenue to local programs will be more than made up for by the avoided cost of collecting bottles and cans in trash and in recyclables. These avoided costs could total $300 million a year. We have documented many cost-effective recycling programs in bottle bill states.
Pointing to the foundering economy and continued concerns of terrorism, your editorial states the climate is wrong to pass a national bottle these days. We disagree. A bottle bill could create 100,000 new jobs boosting the national economy by $800 million. National security ought to encompass energy and resource conservation. Container recycling rates are dropping. Landfills are not safe and do not cover their true post-closure and cleanup costs. It’s time the industry stopped fighting beverage container deposits, a tried and true method to divert bottles and cans from disposal.
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