Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A beloved bill

One common statement you will be hearing from people against the Bottle Bill (HB 839) in the upcoming weeks are statements such as

"A bottle bill is so outdated"

"Maybe in the '70's a Bottle Bill was effective, but now forget about it)

"Bottle Bills will be no help within our current market"

"People in States WITH bottle bills aren't big fans of them..."

etc etc etc

Unfortunately, they're incorrect. Try to repeal a bottle bill in a state and you'll find all sorts of advocates complaining and protesting. Bottle Bill's have quickly grown into an institution in many States and are expanding. Still don't believe me? Well, let's look at the State where the Bottle Bill started back in 1975, with an AP article which is in the Examiner...take a look at Oregon!!

Oregon lawmakers say it's time to reclaim 36-year old bottle bill
SALEM, Ore. - Like shag carpeting or a pair of bell-bottom jeans, Oregon's bottle bill was considered a trendsetter when it passed over three decades ago.

Now, some lawmakers say, it's just as dated.

"It's part of being an Oregonian - returning your bottles and cans," said Senate President, Peter Courtney on Tuesday, as a Senate panel opened hearings to retool the current law. "Container use is different today than it was in 1971. It is time for the Legislature to update the bill to cover today's recycling needs."

When it became law in 1971, Oregon's bottle bill was the nation's first recycling initiative that required distributors to issue a 5-cent deposit for each bottle and can returned. The year after it was implemented, the state's recycling rate for glass and aluminum drink containers shot up from about 25 percent to more than 90 percent.

But the state's beverage container recycling rate has slipped to 78 percent - in part because a nickel doesn't go as far as it used to. Accounting for inflation, a 1971 nickel is worth 25 cents today.

And the old bill only covers carbonated beverages like beer and soft drinks - not the bottled water, juices and sports drinks that are ubiquitous among today's consumers.

Lawmakers say the current law needs to be jazzed up so that containers holding everything from green tea to pomegranate juice can be reused and Oregon can again call itself a leader in recycling laws.

But tweaking the current system would likely mean raising the price of drinks by 5 or 10 cents to generate deposit money - a prospect that Oregon's powerful beverage lobby has fought in the past. And the retail community, led by the Northwest Grocery Association, opposes a bottle bill expansion because they say the process can create sanitation problems if fresh food and drippy drink containers share storage space.

But few question the success of the current program. Between 1972 and 2006, 31.5 billion out of 37.5 billion beer and soft drink were returned for deposit, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Other places soon followed Oregon's lead and today 10 states have bottle bills, including Michigan which offers the highest return at 10 cents for each empty bottle and can.

Spearheading the effort to overhaul the current law is Sen. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, whose father, Richard Chambers, proposed the first bottle bill legislation in 1969.

At the first public hearing on the issue on Tuesday, Berger testified in front of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee that passing the original law was a hard-fought contest.

"Big national players came in. There was big money, there was big business, there were big disputes. It was a battle," Berger said. But the law has proved to be an Oregon icon and one that continues to be popular among consumers.

"When you talk to people, it's their bill. They love their bottle bill, they love it that it is part of our mythology."


Eds: The bill is House Bill 2800.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No comments: