Legislature debates bottle redemption law as Malloy looks to double deposit fee
BY MIKE SAVINO
Posted: April 19, 2017
Originally Published: April 14, 2017
Conservation advocates are urging the state to expand and preserve its bottle redemption program, especially as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal calls for doubling the bottle deposit fee.
In particular, they’re backing a bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, to increase the handling fees paid to redemption centers.
Louis Birch, Connecticut program director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said during a press conference Thursday that the state’s bottle-redemption law “is a proven, effective system for reducing unsightly litter along our roads and our communities, beaches, and open spaces.”
Opponents, led by the beverage industry, disagree, saying that better alternatives exist to encourage residents to recycle more.
A separate bill proposes eliminating the state’s deposit fee, currently a 5-cent surcharge that gets returned when customers bring back eligible containers, in exchange for a 4-cent tax to support curbside pickup programs.
The tax would be phased in, starting with containers that aren’t currently eligible for redemption deposits before including all containers beginning July 1, 2018. Under the bill, it would end in 2025.
Ray Dube, sustainability manager for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England, said the state’s bottle deposit program has been an “utter failure.” He was critical of the fact that the deposit applies to certain containers, meaning the incentive doesn’t apply to paper and food containers, among other items.
“We see this as we’ve spent way too much time focusing on just a small amount of the recycling containers in Connecticut, and not focusing on...all of the other things that need to be recycled,” he said. Only about half of the eligible containers are returned to redeem deposits.
Dube said an expansion of curbside pickup statewide would be more effective, because residents are more likely to recycle when they can place all eligible materials into one bin and bring it to the end of their driveway.
He said Delaware, which has a similar program to the one being proposed, has had success with its model.
Conservationists say that Delaware is not a fair comparison because they didn’t have a system like Connecticut’s to begin with. Mushinsky and others also maintained that the bottle program just needs improvements.
Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, who also attended Thursday’s press conference, said removing the deposit will lead to more litter, particularly in urban areas.
“I think this is a way to get rid of all this litter, or keep it off the streets,” she said.
Mushinsky’s bill would provide an increase in handling fees paid to redemption centers — from 1.5 cents up to 2.5 cents for beer and malt beverage containers, and from 2 cents to 3 cents for eligible soft drinks. She also said the state needs to stop taking unclaimed deposits to incentivize distribution centers to participate.
A Wallingford redemption center, M&M Redemption, closed in February due in part to the current reimbursement rates. CT Redemption Center opened in the same location just over a week ago.
Redemption center operators claim one of the benefits they provide is a more attractive recycled-glass product, as single-stream recycling can lead to contamination.
Mushinsky said the state needs to make sure it’s providing support to redemption centers if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to double the deposit fee to 10 cents is accepted, as recycling rates are expected to increase. She also said the beverage industry is opposed to the state’s bottle deposit program because they want to focus on selling beverages, not accepting recycling containers.
“They would like to sell us product...and they would like to not be responsible for the container,” she said.
Dube rejected the claim. “We recycle and we have been for years and years,” he said, adding the bulk of materials his company uses are recycled.