Environment Committee Hears Testimony on Bottle Bill Update at Public Hearing

ConnPIRG and Diverse Coalition Call on the Committee to Support an Update


Hartford, CT – ConnPIRG testified today in support of Raised Senate Bill No. 67: An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Juices, Teas, and Sports Drinks Under Connecticut’s Bottle Bill.

Below is the Written statement from ConnPIRG Program Associate, Sean Doyle.  The full statement and attachements can be found here.

Over the past few months, ConnPIRG has been building support for updating Connecticut’s bottle bill to include all single serving beverage containers. We collected over four thousand signatures from citizens across the state, gathering support from every state legislative district. We have also received endorsements from municipal leaders, statewide and local conservation and environmental groups, and small businesses. Three towns have passed resolutions, four mayors, six first selectmen, seven directors of public works, and eight recycling/solid waste coordinators have endorsed. Over 90 small businesses have also endorsed an update. A diverse array of people and groups with a diverse array of interests, all supporting an update.

And for good reason. The bottle bill works.

·         The bottle bill is the most effective recycling program in the state: 70% of bottles with a deposit are recycled compared to 25% of bottles without. That discrepancy has consequences: nearly 300 million bottles per year end up as litter, or in landfills and incinerators. Well over a billion bottles have been unnecessarily discarded since the last update, a wholly preventable waste of valuable material.

·         The bottle bill saves cities and towns money. Trash collection and disposal costs weigh heavily on municipal budgets, as do litter abatement programs.

·         The bottle bill reduces litter. Litter is not only costly to cities and towns, it’s a detriment to quality of life. One of the original motivations for passing the bottle bill decades ago was to deal with the litter problem and it’s been a huge success in that regard.

Now, it’s time for an update. The original bottle bill was designed to cover carbonated beverages because that’s what was on the market in 1980.  We did not have the plethora of options now available, from juice to tea to sports and energy drinks. There is no good public policy reason to include water but not tea, soda but not energy drinks. If we were creating the program now, there would be no reason to design it in that manner. We would design it to be holistic.

An updated bottle bill fits within the new direction of Connecticut’s solid waste and recycling policy, shifting from “waste management” to “materials management”.  Connecticut is emerging as a leader in what is variously known as Product Stewardship or Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).  The principle of these policies is that the producers of material goods share responsibility for managing them for their entire life cycle – rather than externalizing that responsibility to consumers and taxpayers. Many of the members of this committee have played leadership roles in passing our paint, electronics, and mattress stewardship laws. If proposed Senate Bill 27 passes, we will begin the process of creating an updated Materials Management Plan, with increased emphasis on product stewardship.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection leadership have indicated interest in EPR programs covering packaging.  We fully support these efforts, but they will take a number of years to plan and design.  There is no reason not to update the bottle bill now.  It does not preclude, but rather complements, future action. 

The committee heard the same arguments from the bottling industry and grocery stores that we have heard for years.

They argue that the bottle bill is out of date, that single streams recycling has replaced the need for bottle bills. In fact, the bottle bill is by far the most effective recycling program in the state, achieving higher recycling rates than municipal recycling programs.  Not every community in the state has single stream programs.  And the home is not the only place people recycle; bottles are often consumed “on the go.” 

They argue that bottle bills raise prices for consumers.  However, a 2011 survey done by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection showed that there is no appreciable difference in prices between states with and without bottle deposits.

Finally, ConnPIRG proposes a number of measures to strengthen Senate Bill 67 and make it as effective as possible.

·         Amend the language to include all single-serving beverage containers. As written, the law would add teas, juices, and sports drinks, but neglect energy drinks and other beverages. Modifying the language will ensure that the law will not need to be updated again.

·         Raise the handling fee to 3.5 cents per bottle. The current statute of 1.5 cents for beer and 2 cents for soda and water is the lowest in the region. Raising the fee would allow redemption centers and stores to cover their operating costs and match regional norms.

·         Include nips (1.5 ounce servings of liquor) with a 5 cent deposit. These bottles have become large litter problems and their inclusion would significantly cut down on their appearance in city streets and in our rivers and waterways.

·         Add wine and liquor bottles to the program with a 15 cent deposit. This creates a cleaner stream of glass and encourages glass recycling in Connecticut. This was done in Maine with great success.

A full list of endorsements and our proposed bill language can be found in ConnPIRG’s written testimony.  And a complete record of written testimony presented to the committee on SB. 67 is available here.