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Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Remember Our Bottle Recycling Days?

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

You know it’s a throwback to days gone by when we start an article with “remember when” but seriously do you remember when we used to return our bottles for deposit? Our modern, throwaway, convenience culture is accustomed to single-serve beverages like water, soda and sports drinks that come packaged in plastic or glass bottles. This contributes to an increasing waste problem.

Beverage bottle recycling plays an important role in a comprehensive recycling approach that allows us to better manage our waste streams. Plastics make up more than 12% of our recycling stream but overall only 7% of it was recycled when compared to 26% recovery for glass (EPA, 2009). Recycling these beverage containers instead of manufacturing new ones reduces the need for new resource material, cuts back on energy usage, and results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Although curbside recycling is available to some of us in the county and indeed, in our state, not all residents have access to curbside recycling programs. What happens to the bottles that we use while we are away from home? They certainly are not going in the curbside collector! How can we ensure that they are properly recycled? One way to do this is to implement laws that promote and incentivize recycling behavior.

A bottle bill, or container deposit law, requires a refundable deposit on beverage containers to ensure that the containers are returned for recycling. This would include beer, soft drink and other beverage containers. States that have implemented bottle bills report higher recycling rates for beverage containers than states without such programs. Bottle bills standardize a program making the refund the same throughout the state instead of wide variances on a local level. States may use the bottle bill funds to support environmental initiatives to reduce littering and promote environmental conservation.

A bottle bill promotes sustainable consumer practices and in so doing will educate and encourage behavioral changes. Use the resources below to learn more and get involved or to check out if your state has a bottle bill.

EPA Municipal Solid Waste Report 2009
Recycling and the bottle bill
EPA facts on recycling glass
The bottle bill
EPA facts on recycling plastic


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