Just Oregon, Connecticut and New York still seem to have legislation alive that would expand each state's bottle-deposit laws.
On April 5, the Oregon Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that would amend the state's 36-year-old bottle-deposit rule to add water and flavored water noncarbonated beverages. The committee's 3-2 vote sends the legislation to the Senate floor. If approved, the law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2009.
A Connecticut bill that would double deposits on soft drink containers to 10 cents and add water, juices, teas, and sports drinks to the state's 27-year-old bottle bill also is moving forward. The Senate Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding approved the bill April 10. The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
In New York, an attempt to attach a provision to the budget bill similar to Connecticut's failed March 29. But Gov. Eliott Spitzer has vowed to continue to pursue the initiative as a separate piece of legislation and as part of his environmental policy.
Measures to expand bottle bills in Massachusetts and Iowa appear stalled; new bottle-bill proposals in West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Maryland are dead; and proposals in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina appear unlikely to go anywhere.
``There are certainly more states that have had legislation introduced this year than the past few years,'' said Pat Franklin, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute in Washington. ``But the beverage industry has put on a full-court press to make sure bills don't get passed. However, as the noncarbonated segment continues to grow, we will see continuing efforts to expand bottle laws.''
The number of water bottles alone sold in the U.S. has grown ninefold since 1997 and doubled since 2002 to 29.8 billion, according to CRI data.
In Oregon, the growth in water bottle sales - along with recycling rates for rigid plastic containers hovering near or below the state-mandated 25 percent - drove the renewed push to add water bottles to the existing bottle bill.
The resin-specific rates, released earlier this month by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, found only PET and high density polyethylene met those targets, with HDPE at the bare minimum. All other resins were below 25 percent, as was the overall aggregate recycling rate, said solid waste specialist Peter Spendelow with the DEQ.
Spendelow said if Senate Bill 707 is enacted, it won't necessarily prevent sanctions in the state's rigid container law from going into effect because it wouldn't take effect until 2009 and the projected rate for 2008 will determine what happens next.
``It still leaves everything up in the air,'' he said. Except for PET users, ``people who make and package products in HDPE or other plastics resins should be nervous about what's going and where the rate will be.'' The law requires companies whose materials don't meet the mandated recycling rates either to switch resins, use 25 percent recycled content or seek an exemption by reducing the weight of containers.
Still, he pointed out, in the long term, an expanded bottle bill easily would push the overall rate above 25 percent. DEQ projects that adding water bottles would boost the recycling rate of water bottles to 62 percent from 32 percent. That would almost double the number of water bottles recycled annually to 115 million, and would reduce the number of bottles that are landfilled from 126 million to 70 million.
The Soap and Detergent Association and 10 other organizations in Oregon still are seeking to change the definitions of recycling in the rigid plastic container bill, arguing the recycling rate is below 25 percent because 1,700 tons of materials collected annually, by DEQ's own estimate, are not recycled. However, those bills have not been scheduled yet for a hearing.
``We are hoping the proposed definition changes won't go through,'' Spendelow said. ``We want to concentrate on pushing up the recycling rates and not changing the definitions of what's recycled.''
He said DEQ numbers indicate the amount of plastics collected at curbside is increasing, and switches in some communities from bins to pushcarts have had a positive effect and could cause ``a significant increase in the numbers.''
Oregon's pending bottle bill is a barebones version of three previous bills that would have increased deposits from a nickel to a dime, added teas, juices, sports drinks and wines and created a series of redemption centers. It also contains a provision to create a task force to look into the feasibility of adding other beverages and redemption centers and report back by Oct. 1, 2008, three months before the next Oregon legislative session. Lawmakers there meet every odd year.
``That is not exactly what we want, but I have been told that it should pass relatively easily,'' said Rick Winterhalter, legislative chair of the Association of Oregon Recyclers in Portland, Ore. ``There might be a little rancor in the House, but hopefully not much. The goal was to develop something that could pass.''
Winterhalter said the ``biggest'' part of the bill for AOR is the creation of the task force to look at the whole issue, try to come with a better system for redemption and make the addition of other containers easier.
``We are a little disappointed,'' AOR Chairman Lee Barrett said, ``but I can understand their reluctance to go forward with redemption centers without knowing what the system would look like, and their reluctance to add juices, teas, coffees, wines and liquor bottles that would have added another 160 million bottles annually to the recycling stream.''
Joe Gilliam, a lobbyist for the Oregon Grocers Association, said the association will continue to oppose the bottle-bill expansion because of sanitation problems the bottles present, the lack of space to store the bottles and because it ``would undermine curbside collection programs.''
But Brian Rohter, chief executive officer of Portland supermarket chain New Seasons Market, expressed a different point of view. New Seasons withdrew from OGA last year.
In a blog on his company's Web site, Rohter called OGA's contention that accepting the increased number of returned bottles would be virtually impossible and would create food-safety issues ``simply self-serving and disingenuous.''
``Collecting returnable bottles and cans is definitely a hassle for us,'' he wrote, ``but since we sell the drinks in the first place, it sure seems like we have the greatest responsibility to make certain the bottles don't end up in our landfills.''