Bill would expand Vermont bottle bill

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 6:26 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - The list of recyclables you can take to a redemption center could get a little longer under a bill introduced in the Vermont House. The measure seeks to expand the state’s bottle bill beyond beer, liquor, and soda to include more other containers, including wine bottles. But some are concerned a bigger bottle could backfire from the original law’s intent.

Central Beverage in Essex Junction currently estimates they pull in about 1,000 bottles a day through their redemption center.

“It’s going to keep a lot of junk from going into the landfill that could easily be recycled,” said the store’s Nick Orr, who believes an expanded list would increase his revenue and allow him to hire more people. “I would love to see wine bottles getting added on.”

If approved, the redemption program would also include cans of iced tea or juice containers. The only exclusions would be dairy products, non-dairy milk, infant formula, meal replacement drinks, and apple cider. But with more material for redemption, comes more sorting.

“We need to find a way to reduce these number of sorts,” said Josh Kelly with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. He says our parallel recycling and redemption streams are effective, both recovering about three-quarters of possible material. But he says most redemption centers are already stressed and in many cases short-staffed.

When items go through the redemption stream now, they need to be sorted, often into over 100 different buckets -- a time-consuming process and one that if more material went through, could get stressed further. “Modernization is needed to support the existing system,” Kelly said.

Some waste haulers also say the proposal would backfire. “We see this as a redundant system,” said Jeff Weld with Casella. He says expanding the number of items listed in the bottle bill wouldn’t have the recycling impact lawmakers are looking for because Vermont already recycles at such a high rate. He says by making the recycling stream smaller, it would cost more to recycle less. “By removing that volume from our recycling facilities, it results in about a 7% increase in cost to the consumer.”

Back at Central Beverage, Orr says he is ready to take on the extra material and says even if it saves a few recyclables from the landfill, that’s a win. “We’ve got this one planet to live on and it doesn’t need to be filled up with garbage,” he said.

Related Stories:

Would a bigger deposit on bottles incentivize more recycling?

Vermont lawmakers consider bottle bill amendment