June 8, 2007
The Bottle Bill: Keeping a lid on pollution since 1971
By Noelle Short
States with Bottle Bills:
Since I’ve had my driver’s license and needed extra cash to pay for transportation, my parents and I have had an agreement that the cans and bottles collected in our houses are all mine to redeem.
It’s worked out well, since gas is expensive, especially for a kid in high school, and they’re just trying to keep the garages clean. My earnings have ranged from five to 50 dollars, and today our agreement still goes on. However, as I’ve learned more about the recycling process, I’ve taken on a different perspective while I’m sorting.
First off, I appreciate living in New York state, which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary of the Bottle Bill. On June 15, 1982, the New York state Bottle Bill, which mandates a bottle deposit system, was enacted and there was a required minimum deposit placed on beer, soft drink and other beverage containers to insure a high rate of recycling and reuse. Currently there are 11 states with a bottle bill, including New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon and Vermont. New York was the seventh state to enact the bill, while Oregon was the first, in 1971.
According to www.bottlebill.org, the deposit-refund system was originally a means for the beverage industry to ensure that their glass bottles were returned and could be washed, refilled and resold. But following World War II, refillable bottles began to vanish. In fact, for convenience and sales sake, by 1960, approximately 47 percent of beer sold in the United States was sold in cans or no-return bottles, while soft drinks remained primarily in refillable glass bottles requiring a deposit but eventually turned toward non-refillable, no-deposits as well.
The problem that resulted from the shift to non-refillable, no-deposit cans in the ‘50s and ‘60s was that everything was considered disposable, and as a result, beverage container litter exploded. As a result, limiting litter became the main focus of the bottle bill in the 1970s and remains that way today. In addition, it was proposed as a means to conserve natural resources and limit solid waste going to landfills, which is also still the case today.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, since the New York Bottle Bill was passed, roadside litter has been reduced by more than 70 percent and more than 90 billion deposit containers have been redeemed, resulting in 4,250,000 tons of glass recycled, 850,000 tons of plastics recycled, and more than 1 million tons of aluminium recycled.
In addition, the DEC reports that recycling under the current Bottle Bill has reduced the manufacturing of plastic and glass and, as a result, has saved an estimated 52 million barrels of oil and has reduced an amount of carbon emissions that is equivalent to keeping more than 600,000 cars off the road each year.
To celebrate the sucesses that have come from the Empire State’s Bottle Bill in the past 25 years, the DEC is currently running the “25 days for 25 years” campaign from May 22 to June 15, which is a school bottle drive hosted at 20 schools throughout New York state to mark the success of the bottle bill and to educate students on its significance.
“By every measure, the Bottle Bill has been an unprecedented success,” stated DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis in a press release. “The law has transformed the way New Yorkers approach litter prevention and recycling and has created a cleaner, healthier environment. During the ‘25 days for 25 years’ campaign, students across New York will learn about the power of recycling and how we can all make the Bottle Bill stronger.”
To learn more about New York’s Bottle Bill and the “25 days for 25 years” campaign, go to www.dec.ny.gov.