Advocates for container deposit laws in U.S. states say they see increasing opportunities to pass legislation in 2024, driven by beverage companies needing much more recycled material and public concerns over plastic pollution and marine litter.
In Rhode Island, for example, a study commission created in 2023 by the state Legislature has been hosting detailed monthly talks with lawmakers, government agencies, environmental groups and businesses to try to work out differences.
"I think there's a good likelihood we can actually get something passed next year," said Jed Thorp, Rhode Island state director for Clean Water Action. "I think all of the concerns we've heard from industry folks around the table; there's solutions out there. There are ways we can address those concerns."
He and other bottle bill supporters spoke on a Dec. 7 webinar organized by the Container Recycling Institute where panelists echoed those points. They see momentum building in some states even as political hurdles still remain sizable.
CRI President Susan Collins said traditional beverage industry opposition to deposits is softening because companies see a business case for bottle bills — more recycled plastic will be needed to meet goals they've set and, equally or more importantly, they need to comply with plastic bottle recycled-content laws that have passed in four states.
Globally, CRI said bottle bills are growing, with more than 25 countries passing deposit legislation since 2016. Collins told a U.S. Senate hearing in September that by 2026, it projects that 744 million people worldwide will live in bottle bill jurisdictions, up from 286 million in 2016.
But, so far at least, the U.S. has been an outlier, without significant bottle bill expansion.
The participants on the webinar, however, said they can see the politics shifting in the United States.
"I think that the beverage producers are ready to come to the table now," said Sarah Nichols, the sustainable Maine director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "They're not saying, 'Don't do it.' They're saying, 'OK, we'll do it now, but we really want to be partners.' So it's just working out those details. That's really changed."
Maine is one of 10 U.S. states with a bottle bill but Nichols said she now spends less time fighting attempts to weaken or eliminate the law.