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Vt. lawmakers reconsider bottle bill - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers reconsider bottle bill

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Vermont's bottle bill has been around since 1972, initially geared toward solving the litter problem.

Today it allows consumers to redeem a 5-cent deposit on carbonated drinks and a 15-cent deposit on liquor containers, but lawmakers the last several years have debated its relevance today. Should it be expanded or trashed all together. Passage of the state's new Universal Recycling law, Act 148, two years ago pushed it to the forefront. Among other things it calls for mandatory recycling of all recyclables by next year. 

Senator Robert Hartwell (D-Bennington County) is pushing a bill in his Natural Resources Committee that would eliminate the redemption for liquor containers. He says it's an inefficient system that doesn't make sense in the single stream recycling landscape of the future. "We have a lot of ideas about how to finance a solid waste system, take some money to do it to meet the requirements of Act 148, and quite frankly the deposit system is interfering with that," Hartwell said.

Hartwell says the trend is moving all solid waste through the materials recovery facilities. "There's an enormous handling fee involved and a totally separate system of transportation. A lot of fuel being used to transfer bottles and cans to the same place as everything else goes," he said.

Beverage distributors, which are responsible for collecting the empties, have pushed for years to get rid of the current system saying it has some of the highest handling fees in the country and is an unnecessary expense.  But environmental groups like Vermont Public Interest Research Group disagree, saying if anything the bottle bill should be expanded.

"Vermonters love the bottle bill. It works incredibly well right now. Eight out of ten bottles and cans that are sold that are covered by the bottle bill get returned for recycling today. That is twice as good as any other recycling program that currently exists in this state," said Paul Burns from VPIRG.

A legislative report last year found the bottle bill costs some $12 million a year. It found elimination of the handling fees would cut much off that cost, but would essentially spell the death knell for most redemption centers, would primarily benefit the distributors, and would have a significant negative impact on retailers. 

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