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September 23, 2009

Bixby Bulletin

Bottle Deposit Program Rife with Benefits

OKLAHOMA CITY—Oklahomans may soon have new cash crop available thanks to state Rep. Ryan Kiesel who plans to file legislation to implement a bottle deposit program in the state.

Kiesel conducted an interim study yesterday to look at the pros and cons of having a bottle deposit system in the state.

“After this study, the benefits of a bottle deposit program in Oklahoma are clear,” said Kiesel, D-Seminole. “Whether you’re looking at the millions saved by reducing litter on our highways, the increase in state revenue without raising taxes, the positive environmental impact, or the opportunities for economic growth, a bottle deposit program delivers on all counts.”

How a Bottle Deposit System Works

While each state's plan has its own unique details, a bottle deposit program in general works like this:  When a retailer buys a beverage from a distributor, a deposit is paid to the distributor for each can or bottle purchased.  When the consumer returns the empty beverage container to the retail store, to a redemption center, or to a reverse vending machine, the deposit is refunded. The retailer recoups the deposit from the distributor, plus an additional handling fee in most U.S. states. The handling fee, which generally ranges from one-to-three cents, helps cover the cost of handling the containers.

The costs to distributors and bottlers can also be offset by the sale of scrap cans and bottles and by short-term investments made on the deposits that are collected from retailers. In addition to this income, distributors and bottlers realize profits on beverage containers that consumers do not return for the refund.

Unredeemed deposits can amount to millions of dollars a year.  Some suggested uses for these funds include helping cover the collection costs to the distributors and retailers, adding to the funds to the state's general revenue, or earmarking the money to pay for local recycling programs.

Currently, 11 states have bottle deposit programs. Michael Patton from the Metropolitan Environmental Trust, one of the presenters at the interim study, noted that these states have better recycling efforts as a whole.

Patton added that the potential for increased revenue in the state for unredeemed containers could generate as much as $91 million in state revenue.

Jim Bologna with Saint-Gobain Containers in Sapulpa, another presenter at this hearing, said his glass manufacturing company fully supports the bill.  Because of the limited supply of recycled glass in Oklahoma, his company uses only 15 percent recycled glass, a majority of which comes from Iowa (a bottle deposit state). A bottle deposit program would mean glass manufacturers would have a new supply chain right here in Oklahoma.  Local supplies would not only save in shipping costs and CO2 emissions, but would reduce energy costs in the production of bottles. Recycled glass has a lower melting point than raw materials, and thus requires less energy to manufacture bottles.  For every 10 percent increase in cullet use, their energy costs are reduced 3-4 percent.

Scott Smith, owner of the Blue Jackalope, a small grocery store in Tulsa, also spoke on this issue. He stated that he sees the program as an opportunity for more business growth, as many consumers that come in to redeem bottles will then spend their new money in the store. He also commented on the opportunities it will provide to people in his community who would benefit from this new source of income.

Mike Patterson of ODOT said that over the last three years, ODOT has spent $3.9 million in litter pick-up along the highways—accounting to around 245,000 man hours. These numbers would be greater if not for the assistance of Adopt-A-Highway organizations that pick up litter along Oklahoma’s highways on a quarterly basis.

“Every Department of Transportation across the country is in favor of bottle bills, as it mitigates the amount of litter along our roads,” said Patterson.

Kiesel said the proposal is a win-win situation for Oklahoma’s economy, environment, businesses and residents.

“It is clear that the time for a bottle bill is now,” said Kiesel.


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