A new report by Reloop North America finds that even five northeast U.S. states that have bottle recycling bills could greatly improve those for significant economic benefits (jobs), as wellas benefits to health, and environment ranging from less litter in creeks and streams to reduced greenhouse gases, with less stress on local and state governments. Bottle bill benefits would be even greater in Georgia or Florida, which do not yet have them.
Alex Kamczyc, Recycling Today, March 18, 2022, Reloop releases study on modernizing deposit return systems,
Reloop North America, New York, has released research showing how five states with bottle bills could improve environmental and economic conditions by modernizing their deposit return systems (DRS). The five states are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont.
“We did this study because time is not on our side,” says Elizabeth Balkan, director of Reloop North America. “The environmental implications of waste-based manufacturing and over-consumption demand urgent action. In the Northeast, more than 400 beverage containers per person are buried, burned or littered annually. We need to take action now so that bottles remain bottles and cans remain cans.”…
“Cities and towns across New York state as, as with cities and towns across the U.S. are struggling to keep their recycling programs afloat,” Balkan says. “Glass is a huge problem. And if you could pull that glass out of the recycling of the curbside recycling system and run it through the state’s bottle bill program, it would not only alleviate a huge operational burden for cities, but it’s going to save them a ton of money.”…
If that’s the case in states that already recycle around 69% of their beverage containers, bottle bills would be even more beneficial in states such as Georgia and Florida that do not yet have them.
DRSs work. The percentage of aluminum, PET plastic, and glass containers that is recycled in states with a DRS is more than double the percentage in states without one.25
25 “U.S. Recycling Rates by Deposit Status.” Container Recycling Institute. 2015. https://www.container-recycling.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=199&Itemid=1155
Within DRS states, the recycling rates for included (deposit-eligible) containers is up to six times higher than the rate of recycling for excluded containers.
A Deposit Return System (DRS) is a producer-financed system that requires consumers to pay a deposit on beverage containers at the point of purchase.
The deposit is then fully refunded when the container is returned. DRSs are proven to be the most cost-effective way to deliver the quality and quantity of material needed to enhance closed-loop recycling and minimize the need for virgin resources.
DRSes already work much better than no DRS as in Georgia and Florida.
This new report is about how to make them even better. Including pressure to eliminate single-use containers.
The key is Industry Financed: make the producers pay. Plus the bottle deposit is incentive for individuals to return the bottles to get their ten cents back. Or for other people to collect them to get the ten cents. With required producer reporting and government oversight and enforcement.
The health impacts from environmental impacts associated with the supply chain for single-use packaging — in particular from the production, disposal, and littering of plastic — are disproportionately borne by low-income communities and communities of color and are therefore a major environmental justice issue 30 . High-performing DRSs must not only avoid negative impacts but also deliver improved economic, social, and public health conditions.
As described further in the “Equitable Transitioning” section below, revenues from unclaimed deposits create an opportunity for targeted, neighborhood- driven programs and improvements that can be used to deliver meaningful improvements in quality of life for everyone and some vulnerable populations in particular.
In addition to the impacts outlined below, reducing the volume of containers produced from virgin materials may also have an impact on the toxic emissions from manufacturing facilities, which disproportionately affect lower-income communities. However, assessing this impact is beyond the scope of the current research and will require further study.
Manufacturing beverage containers from raw materials is an energy-intensive process. To the extent that raw materials can be replaced with quality recycled materials, environmental impact and financial burden decreases.
Reloop’s new research shows that modernizing the DRS in each state will result in the reduction of 556,800 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions across the region. While the state’s GHG inventory parameters might not enable them to count these against their climate goals, the largest carbon reductions were associated with the most populated states: Massachusetts (with 138,000 metric tons reduced per year) and New York City (with 224,000 metric tons reduced per year). The increase in transportation emissions associated with increased redemptions (highest in Massachusetts at 18 metric tons) will be many times offset by the reduced emissions from using recycled rather than virgin materials. The total carbon savings across the five Northeast states would be as high as 557,000 metric tons of CO 2 annually. This is equivalent of over 121,000 cars being taken off the road each year.
Based on Reloop’s extensive research of deposit return systems worldwide, the 10 high-performance principles, and the analytical model that were developed based on that research, every targeted state would see an increase in the return rate for beverage containers under a modernized DRS. Massachusetts and Connecticut would see the most significant increases, from a baseline redemption rate in the 40% range to 90%.
Of all container types, plastic cartons and nips (small, single-serving liquor bottles) would see the greatest increases, including a jump from 0% recycled to 89% for nips — equivalent to more than 70 million individual nips, which are not currently included in the region’s DRSs and are one of the most commonly littered items. In terms of increased beverage container recycling, plastic is estimated to see the largest increase, with an additional 5.9 billion units being recycled; aluminum and glass follow with an additional 1.9 billion and 1.4 billion containers. By weight, about 463,000 tons of additional material will be diverted from landfill and recycled across the Northeast region each year.
This is in the northeast region where successful DRS is already in place. So states without bottle deposits, such as Georgia and Florida, should see even greater improvements.
Even in the northeast DRS states, modernization will result in much economic and other improvements.
Economy is what many people care about the most.
Local governments naturally also care a lot about their budgets.
So for Georgia or Florida, starting from near zero, improvements would be even more vast.
Thanks to WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter for spotting this report.
For more about the trash situation in the Suwannee River Basin, see https://wwals.net/issues/trash.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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