Bottle deposit law may be updated

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(Host) The Vermont Grocers’ Association says it will oppose legislation to expand the state’s bottle deposit law. The grocers say the proposal is unnecessary because of the success of mandatory recycling programs throughout the state. Supporters of the bill strongly disagree with the analysis.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) When Vermont’s bottle deposit law was passed in the 1970s, soda and beer accounted for the vast majority of containers that fell under the scope of the law. But times have changed and now water bottles are emerging as a major consumer item and some lawmakers want the deposit law to include water and juice containers.

South Burlington Representative Ann Pugh is the lead sponsor of the bill that would also increase the deposit from a nickel to a dime:

(Pugh) “There are a whole lot more non-carbonated beverages out there. Take a look at our roads and take a look at your friends that are walking around with their water bottles or their juice bottles, and I think those need to be included into the bottle law. The bottle deposit law has been very effective with soda and let’s expand it and let’s make it more of an incentive by raising it. We haven’t raised it in close to 15 to 20 years.”

(Kinzel) Doug Tschorn runs the Wayside Country Store in West Arlington. Tschorn opposes an expansion of the deposit law because he believes many of these water bottles are already being recycled:

(Tschorn) “I realize back in the ’70s when Vermont first took on this bottle bill that it was an exceptionally good idea. As things progressed, as we get the waste stream into recycling etc., etc. I’m sorry, but I feel that we could repeal the bottle bill and everything could go into the recycling system and we’d be better off.”

(Kinzel) Tschorn says expanding the deposit law will also create a lot more work for local grocery stores:

(Tschorn) “We get dirty bottles, we get dirty cans. You start putting more dirt into our stores. I see a lot of saving of dirt and payroll and everything else by putting things in the recycling system, which is working very well. Down our way, papers, cans, plastic is all going in certain directions and I think it’s very efficient. And then we could tend to our storekeeping.”

(Kinzel) Representative Pugh doesn’t think these arguments are very compelling.

(Pugh) “I believe they said that this legislation was unnecessary when we first started the bottle deposit law, which was a very effective tool and strategy. And let’s have that conversation – we have not had that conversation in about eight years and I think it’s time to revisit it. The products put there are different and the environment is different.”

(Kinzel) The House Natural Resources committee is expected to review the proposal in the coming weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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