Higher stakes bottle bill

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(Host) Commentator Jules Older wants to spend a quarter, get a quarter back and clean up Vermont at the same time.

(Older) Walking up the dirt road that ends at Nelsons Farm, I saw something new on the ground. Not snow. Not leaves. Bottles.

A dozen empty bottles and the remnants of the paper bag that held them when they were tossed out of a car window. All lying by the side of a pretty road on the edge of a farmer’s field. They weren’t the only bottles beside the road, not by a long shot just the latest in an ever-growing number. Bottles and beer cans. Beer cans and bottles. Welcome to clean, green Vermont.

I know why they’re there. And I know how to get rid of them.

Why they’re there: because a law has grown stale. Vermont’s Beverage Container Law was passed in 1972. In a move bold for its time, the law required pop bottles to come with a five-cent deposit. Buy a Pepsi; pay a nickel. Return the empty; here’s yer nickel back.

Trouble is – two troubles. First, in 1972, a nickel was worth something. Bread went for 33 cents a loaf. Butter was 75 cents a pound. And Pepsi cost 69 cents – for a sixpack. Today, a nickel is something you don’t bother picking up off the sidewalk. It’s worth less than two 1972 cents. And is no deterrent at all to tossing bottles out the car window.

Second problem. In 1972, about the only thing folks bought in bottles and cans were soda and beer. Today, they buy soda and beer, apple juice and water, wine and a lot of sorta’ in-between stuff. But there’s still no deposit on those items. Not even a nickel.

It’s time to update the law. It’s time to pay a quarter deposit on all drinks sold in bottles and cans. It’s time to clean up Vermont once again.

Now, the counter-argument, which is sure to come, is that New Hampshire doesn’t charge a quarter or even a nickel on its beer cans. Aren’t Vermonters just gonna cross the river to buy their beer?

Wait a minute. Drive extra miles at $1.60 a gallon to save a quarter – that you’re gonna get back anyway? I don’t think so. They made the same argument in 1972, and we’ve managed to survive that crisis.

Instead, consider the positive effects of a quarter deposit. School kids will once again scour the roads for returnable cans. School groups will once again pay for class trips and band uniforms with bottle drives.

And when we clean up the nasty, dangerous rubbish from our highways and byways, Vermont will once again lead the nation in taking care of its own yard. All for a quarter. Refundable.

This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.

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