H.175, the updated Bottle Bill, received initial approval in the Vermont House Thursday. The vote was 99-46. It’s up for final approval today.
CLARIFICATION: a headline on today’s Vermont Daily email refers to H175 as a “10 cent bottle bill”. As introduced and in earlier versions, H175 would have raised the return value for most containers from five cents to 10 cents. However, as approved today, the return value remains at five cents.
Vermonters from the retail, distribution, craft brewing, and recycling sectors have highlighted the negative impacts an expanded bottle bill will have on Vermonters and urged House members to vote no on H.175, an act relating to the beverage container redemption system.
H.175 would expand the containers included in the current program to cover water bottles, wine, hard cider, and more. It would also update the deposit from five cents to 10 cents because nickel isn’t worth what it was 50 years ago.
Powerful recycling and beverage interests in the state oppose the bill.
They claim from raising the cost of beverages and recycling for consumers, disrupting the recycling system, and threatening small businesses that are already struggling, the bottle bill will make Vermont more expensive and harm the state’s successful recycling system.
However, some advocates of the bill make a strong claim that, if enacted, H.175 will help mitigate Vermont’s growing amount of roadside litter.
VPIRG, the Vermont Public Research Interest Group supports H.175. The non-profit has been pressing to modernize Vermont’s Bottle Bill law for years.
VPRIG claims an expanded bill will reduce roadside litter, saving an estimated $34 million in litter cleanup costs, produce huge quantities of clean material for recycling including 35,000 tons of PET plastic, 100,000 tons of aluminum, and 700,000 tons of glass.
However, Todd Bouton, general manager of Farrell Distributing summed up the proposed legislation stating, “The bottom line is the expanded bottle bill is bad for our economy and bad for our environment.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused record numbers of Vermonters to seek help from food shelves as food insecurity has soared. The expanded bottle bill, opponents claim, will only make Vermonter’s grocery bills more expensive.
The price of water, sports drinks, and juice will significantly increase under this proposal, with a $1.20 increase for deposits alone on a case of water. The average Vermonter can buy a case (24 bottles) of water for around $3.90 right now at Hannaford’s. If this bill passes, the price of that case of water goes up to $5.10. These price increases will harm consumers as well as our struggling small store owners by driving customers out of state where beverages will be cheaper.
Additionally, H.175 opponents claim, the legislation misses its intended mark. Rather than providing an environmental benefit, the legislation will harm Vermont’s successful single-stream recycling system.
“Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law is working,” said Kim Crosby, environmental compliance manager from Casella Waste. “Vermont has some of the highest recycling rates in the country. Expanding the bottle redemption law only builds upon a broken and expensive system and sends our valuable materials for recycling out of state. Expanding the bottle bill will disrupt our successful single-stream recycling system and increase the cost of recycling for Vermonters.”
Meanwhile, VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns, and Environmental Associate Marcie Gallagher, recently testified in the House Natural Resources Committee on the importance of modernizing Vermont’s Bottle Bill. They reported that an expanded bill would save enough energy to power 185,000 Vermont homes for a year.