A federal bottle deposit requirement could happen 2022-12-15

The plastic industry doubled down on the failed solution of recycling, on potential revisions to a federal bill to limit the harm of plastics, including through bottle deposits.

Still, bottle deposits do increase recycling, so that would be better than nothing, reducing the amount of plastic trash we find in waterways such as the Withlacoochee River and leading to it Valdosta’s Sugar Creek, One Mile Branch, Two Mile Branch, and Three Mile Branch.

[Toxic, Trash]
Toxic, Trash

WWALS has been supporting bottle deposits and more since 2020, along with many other organizations.

Cheryl Hogue, Chemical & Engineering News, December 14, 2022, Requiring deposits on bottles in US could garner plastics industry’s support: Legislation would have to be ‘drafted correctly,’ association leader says,

A major US plastics industry organization could support federal legislation to require consumers to pay deposits on beverage bottles, the head of the group told a congressional panel Dec. 15.

Matt Seaholm, CEO, Plastics Industry Association

The Plastics Industry Association would back such a bill “if drafted correctly,” Matt Seaholm, the group’s CEO, said without elaborating further. Seaholm spoke at a hearing convened by the Senate Environment and Public Works panel’s Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight Subommittee.

Actually, Seaholm mostly read his written testimony, which ignored all the harms of plastics, cited a few benefits such as airbags, and insisted on more recycling.

The article continues:

Seaholm made his comment in response to a question from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who chairs the subcommittee and is the sponsor of S. 984, the proposed Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. Among its extensive provisions, the measure would impose a national program for paying and redeeming monetary deposits on beverage bottles.

Two speakers had already discussed the harms of plastics that Seaholm ignored.

John Peterson “Pete” Myers, Ph.D., Founder, CEO & Chief Scientist, Environmental Health Sciences

Judith Enck, President, Beyond Plastics

And Senator Merkley had already rebutted recycling as a solution, as you can see at 00:23:29 in the committee’s video of that hearing.

Senator Jeff Merkley

Through every stage of its lifecycle, plastic can release these toxins. From the petrochemicals used in its production, that workers in frontline communities are exposed to, to the ones that are released through regular plastic use, and finally to the toxins that make their way into the air, the soil, the water, when plastics are thrown away.

Testimony by John Peterson “Pete” Myers, Ph.D., Founder, CEO & Chief Scientist, Environmental Health Sciences

Now most of us have heard of the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. It sounds like a magical way to address this challenge. But here’s the story with plastics. It’s not three Rs, it’s three Bs. They’re buried, they’re burned, or they’re borne out to sea. That’s quite a different picture.

And then we have the notion that we have recyling bins, and we put plastic items into them. And yet very few people know that often these recyling bins are simply combined with the trash, in many many institutions they’re simply a kind of greenwashing.

And if they are being brought to a recycling operation, only about 9% get recycled. So that means just a fraction of the plastics get recycled….

Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is one of the co-sponsors of S. 984. The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee last year, but there is talk of reviving it in 2023.

WWALS has been supporting this initiative since before there was a bill, signing in November 2020 #PLASTICFREEPRESIDENT: How the President Can Solve the Plastic Pollution Crisis.

[The 8 Priority Plastic Actions]
The 8 Priority Plastic Actions

Back to the article:

Merkley had asked Seaholm if the plastics industry would back a federal version of what is popularly called a bottle bill. This kind of legislation requires retailers such as grocery stores to charge customers a deposit fee as part of the purchase of beverages in bottles made of glass or plastic. Customers can recoup the money when they return bottles to retailers or redemption centers.

Ten US states have bottle laws, with cash redemption of 5 or 10 cents per beverage bottles. They are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. These states have a higher rate of bottle returns for recycling than do jurisdictions without such laws.

The article says Merkley welcomed the cooperation Seaholm sort of offered. One would guess Merkley is calling his bluff. We shall see.

I don’t think I’m alone in being tired of digging plastic out of riverbanks.

[And more over this bluff: Garrett Cut-through Trash Jam, 2022-12-17, 30.6875410, -83.4223540]
And more over this bluff: Garrett Cut-through Trash Jam, 2022-12-17, 30.6875410, -83.4223540

Sure, trash traps are good, and I’m looking forward to Valdosta getting on with buying more of those, and using their own staff or contractors to clean them out, instead of expecting volunteers to do it. They don’t expect volunteers to clean up sewage spills, do they?

And there will be less trash in the trash traps when Valdosta finally starts enforcing its trash ordinances, requiring parking lot owners to keep trash from escaping their property, and to strategically place trash cans according to the number of parking spaces, and to keep them cleaned out.

But we also need to go even farther upstream to stop the trash, including bottle deposits and bans on single-use plastic packaging such as styrofoam, like those passed by Maryland and Colorado.

Valdosta is not the only source of trash in the waterways of the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia and Florida. But as the most populous city in the entire Basin, Valdosta is the biggest source of such trash, much of which washes down the Withlacoochee River into Florida, to the Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico.

For more on the trash situation, see:

Thanks to WWALS Science Committee Chair Dr. Tom Potter for spotting this article.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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