Sen. James Jeffords, head of the Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced a national bottle bill April 22 that would set a 10 cent deposit on beverage containers and put the onus on the beverage industry to develop a system with an 80 percent recycling rate.
At a joint Washington news conference with several environmental organizations, Jeffords, I-Vt., unveiled what he terms producer-responsibility legislation that he said would be better for industry than a traditional bottle bill.
Jeffords said the bill is modeled on Canadian deposit programs and on the U.S. government's Clean Air Act emissions cap and trading program, which set overall performance levels but gave industry the responsibility to design the most cost-effective solution.
Specifically, the legislation would require beverage companies or their recycling organizations to submit plans to the Environmental Protection Agency and would impose financial penalties on companies that do not meet the 80 percent goal within two years.
If the 80 percent goal is not met in a state, the brand owner would have to pay each state the difference between the deposits collected on containers sold in that state and the amount of refunds paid on returned beverage containers.
Jeffords said he plans to hold a hearing on the bottle bill this summer, and he said his committee chairmanship will put him in a position to advance the bill: ``We have a better shot at national legislation than ever before.''
A spokesman for the Washington-based National Soft Drink Association said the group opposes any form of ``forced container deposit.''
Such systems are costly to the beverage industry and slow its growth, and they add costs for consumers, said NSDA spokesman Sean McBride.
``No bottle bill has passed in 20 years because policy makers and consumers understand that the cost and the inconvenience are way too high for the impact that that policy has on litter,'' he said. ``Our industry believes we can do better and we want to do better on recycling used beverage containers and all types of recyclable materials.''
He noted that voters in Columbia, Mo., recently decided to toss out their bottle bill, and he said NSDA encourages communities to spend more money on education to promote recycling and fight litter.