The Senate voted 33-1 Wednesday night to revise Connecticut’s 43-year-old bottle bill bill, possibly doubling deposit deposit rules on returnable bottles and cans from one penny to one penny and expanding its reach juices, teas, sports drinks and other currently exempt drinks.
Nips, those tiny bottles of alcohol that have become a disproportionate source or urban waste, would remain non-returnable, but subject to a 5-cent surcharge suggested by the wine and spirits industry to generate income for communities where they are sold.
Bottle bill revisions are now going to the House. The only dissenting vote in the Senate was cast by Senator Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott.
The result of a bipartite compromise, the key elements of the legislation would only come into force in two years or more: the types of drinks covered by the law on lockers would not increase before January 1, 2023 and the guidelines would not increase until January 1, 2023. would not increase until January 1. , 2024.
“It’s long overdue,” said Senator Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, co-chair of the environment committee.
The delays are intended to allow time for more clearinghouses to open, attracted by an increase in processing fees that would take effect on October 1, 2021. Fees would drop from a penny to 2 1/2 cents on beer and other carbonated alcoholic beverages. ; and of 2 cents to 3 1/2 cents on soda, water and other non-alcoholic drinks.
“They have been receiving the same processing fees since 1982,” Cohen said. “So we only have eight fully operational redemption centers operating as planned. And this is because they are simply no longer money generators, which makes it very inconvenient for consumers to redeem those nickels.
By pushing back the implementation of the expansion and higher deposits, the bill also gives time for recyclers and the beverage industry to respond to an invitation to counter with better ways to reduce solid waste and to increase recycling.
The bill creates a framework for the creation of not-for-profit “stewardship” programs, inspired by efforts in Oregon, Canada and Europe to both reduce non-recyclable packaging and make recycling more efficient and less efficient. costly for municipalities.
“Don’t tell us you can’t, because they’re doing it in BC. They do it in Europe. They do it everywhere else. They just never wanted to do it here because it’s going to cost them money, ”said Representative Joe Gresko, D-Bridgeport, the other co-chair of the environment committee.
The compromise was widely applauded, but not unanimously. A trade association has warned that the bill could ultimately undermine recycling and increase waste disposal costs for municipalities.
House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora R-North Branford initially called the increase in deposits income, but softened his criticism after seeing that the compromise would redirect a growing share of unclaimed deposits to distributors, offsetting part of the cost of handling the bottles. and can come back.
Unreimbursed deposits were held by bottlers and distributors from the inception of the program until the Great Recession of 2008. Desperate for revenue, the legislature made them state property, effective April 2009 .
Unclaimed deposits, handling fees, drinks that should be exempt, and the responsibilities of retailers, distributors and redemption centers have all been the subject of lobbying battles.
“There is a lot of money at stake here, a lot of competing interests,” said Senator John Kissel, R-Enfield.
Designed in the 1970s as an anti-waste program, today’s Bottle Bill Act is part of a complex and changing recycling environment currently depressed by a weak market for plastic and glass waste. .
Meanwhile, the House gave final passage earlier Wednesday to a companion bill that requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to recommend by December 12. 1, 2022 recycled content requirements for products sold in Connecticut.
Packaging with multiple materials makes recycling difficult, especially in single-stream programs that depend on the ability to efficiently sort and separate waste types. Aluminum cans have high rates of reuse through recycling, unlike plastics.
Senator Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, a co-sponsor of the Compromise Language, said he hoped the beverage and recycling industries would respond with ways to increase recycling without increasing the 10-cent deposit.
Sensing growing animosity towards waste attributed to the pinches, Connecticut wine and spirits wholesalers proposed the surcharge as preferable to a deposit. Deposits on cans and bottles are refunded using reverse vending machines, but machines cannot handle pinches.
“They are too small, so they have to be counted by hand,” said Lawrence F. Cafero, executive director of the wholesale group. “This is point number one. Point number two, there is no technology that has been developed that separates the aluminum strip which is part of the twist of the cap from the bottle itself.
As a result, Cafero said, pine bottles cannot be recycled efficiently and are sent to landfills, even in Maine – the only state that includes them on its bottle bill.
Cafero said 90 million pliers are sold each year in Connecticut, and it is easy to know where they are sold. Research shows that they are often thrown near where they are purchased.
“It’s a culture of cover-up, cover-up from your parents, your employer, your spouse, law enforcement, whatever,” Cafero said. “So it’s drink and chuck.” And it is in the municipality where it was purchased.
In New Haven, the surcharge would produce about $ 200,000 a year, money that could be used creatively to encourage community clean-up, he said.
Glass liquor and wine bottles remain exempt, but Cohen said there was an effort to find ways to more easily separate them from the waste stream for the use of companies such as Urban Mining, which uses spray glass as an additive to make stronger concrete.
Steve Changaris of the National Waste and Recycling Association said the bill could have unintended consequences. He sees the raw material market for plastic waste rebounding, and making more plastic bottles redeemable will take them out of single-stream recycling.
It means loss of income.