When you subtract the results for the 11 states with bottle-deposit laws, the Container Recycling Institute says the nationwide recycling rate for PET bottles in 2006 was just 13.6 percent.
That is about 10 percentage points lower than the country's overall PET recycling rate in 2006, which included those 11 states in the total. Also, the nationwide rate of 23.5 percent in 2006 rose to 24.6 in 2007, based on data from the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR).
The difference between the deposit and nondeposit numbers makes a compelling case that bottle bills would increase the volume of PET and other containers recycled, argues Betty McLaughlin, CRI's executive director.
``While some states and communities are doing a good job at recycling beverage containers, there are large quantities of valuable containers that are not yet being recovered in the U.S.,'' McLaughlin said by telephone.
``The industry isn't crazy about doing deposit bills, but at the end of the day, it works,'' she said. ``We hope this will help us have a constructive dialogue with the industry, and begin a discussion with them of, `What's your plan to achieve the same recycling rates if the industry remains opposed to bottle-deposit bills?' ''
CRI's report, released Dec. 29, analyzed statistics from a variety of sources, including Sonoma, Calif.-based NAPCOR. CRI did not offer state-by-state recycling data.
The combined PET bottle recycling rate for the 11 deposit states in 2006 was 44.4 percent. Their rate for carbonated soft drink bottles was 71.2 percent, and their rate for noncarbonated-drink bottles was 35.2 percent. In 2006, just three of those states California, Hawaii and Maine included noncarbonated beverages in their bottle-deposit laws.
A fourth state, Oregon, added water bottles to its bottle-deposit law as Jan. 1. Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, in its rigid plastic container report released Jan. 2, said it expects the addition to boost the water- bottle recycling rate in Oregon from 33 percent to 60 percent.
The report also looked at high density polyethylene bottles, noting states that include HDPE noncarbonated beverage bottles in their deposit programs show much higher recycling rates for those types of containers than do nondeposit states.
Glastonbury, Conn.-based CRI noted that the joint recycling rate for HDPE bottles in the 47 states that did not collect them for deposits was 21 percent in 2006, compared with the nationwide rate of 26.4 percent. Those figures are based on the latest numbers available from APR of Washington and the American Chem- istry Council in Arlington, Va.
McLaughlin said the grocery and beverage industries' approach to recycling, which favors curbside collection rather than deposit laws, is unacceptable, because one-third of all beverages are not consumed at home, making them difficult to collect through curbside programs.
Three companies that bottle water Nestle Waters North America, Mountain Valley Spring Co. and Fiji Water Co. LLC have said that they would support legislation to expand plastic container recycling, under one condition: They want the laws to apply to plastic containers for consumer products such as laundry detergents and shampoo not just soft drink and water bottles.
Water bottles accounted for half, or 36 billion, of the 72 billion PET containers produced in 2006, McLaughlin said. Soft drink bottles accounted for 24 billion, or one-third, of PET containers. She said the remaining shares were split among sports drinks, 6 billion; fruit drinks, 4 billion; and ready-to-drink teas, 2 billion.
The nationwide PET recycling rate in 2006 for soft drink PET bottles was 27 percent; it was 21.5 percent for noncarbonated beverages such as water, according to CRI's report.
Nationwide, PET bottles accounted for 32 percent of the 224 billion beverage containers sold in 2006, with per-capita annual consumption at 721 bottles and cans per year almost three times higher than in 1972, according to CRI. Water bottle sales in 2006 were three times the 12 billion bottles sold in 2000, and 12 times higher than a decade ago. Sales jumped 20 percent between 2005 and 2006, the report said.
CRI is a nonprofit organization that promotes producer responsibility for container recycling.