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10001ways: Call to Action - Bottle Bills are an effective solution to a terrible problem

When I was a kid back in the 50s, I paid for my baseball cards by finding discarded beer bottles and taking them in for a refund. It was great. I’d peddle down to the hot spots in Watertown, Wisconsin like Riverside Park after a weekend, fill up my basket and head to the little grocery on the corner of 9th and Wisconsin, cash in and convert my earnings to glossy cards of Eddie Mathews and Whitey Ford. I ended up with one of those all-time-great-baseball card-collections-that-my-mother-threw-away.

Since the vast majority of states don’t have a container deposit law, I feel sorry for the young generation that doesn’t have the same opportunity I did. On the other hand, baseball cards seem to have lost some of the luster. So, what’s the big deal.

The big deal is this: Despite the fact that we have recycling laws, Americans throw away about 35 billion bottles and jars every year. The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) estimates that the 36 billion aluminum cans last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million.

Bottle pollution on the ground

Many of these millions of containers find their way in ponds, rivers and oceans. The resulting pollution has catastrophic consequences for birds, fish and wildlife in general. In addition, we end up replacing all the discarded bottles and cans with new ones consuming massive amounts of energy, raw materials and industrial chemicals. Stupid.

Bottle Bills or Container Deposit Laws require a 5 or 10 cent deposit on each bottle or can that can be refunded when the bottles and cans are returned for recycling. Do Bottle Bills make a difference. The 10 states that currently have bottle bills account for recycling almost as many bottles and cans as the other 40. In places like Germany or Michigan with a 10-cent deposit fee the recycling percentage is around 90%. Bottle Bills create green jobs required to collect, sort and remanufacture. They reduce waste, conserve energy and natural resources as well.

It makes total sense. So, why doesn’t every state have a container deposit law? There has traditionally been push back from bottling companies, Retail Grocers and beverage distributors whose complaints range from “inconvenience” to “competition with curb side recycling”. In fact, they are pretty weak arguments in view of the benefits. The real reason is the potential loss in revenue in the billions of dollars due to container deposit laws.

Let’s promote Container Deposit Laws. They work.

Here is what you can do. Get together with a few friends and promote for a bottle bill in your state. A website called provides everything you need to take action. It provides history, facts and information, and even a toolkit to use for your campaign. It’s a great place to get a jump start!

At the very least let your local legislators know where you stand. Asking questions is always worth the effort.


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