Delaware replaces venerable bottle deposits with recycling fee

Delaware has instituted a controversial 4-cent non-refundable recycling fee to replace its 28-year-old bottle bill that required a 5-cent deposit on plastic and glass soft drink and beer bottles.

What a tragedy!

“We are extremely disappointed they chose to repeal their law, rather than enforce it,” said Susan Collins, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute, based in Culver City, Calif. “This is really anathema to our approach. We support extended producer responsibility where producers and consumers pay for the life cycle costs of the packaging.”

The other ten states in the U.S. with bottle deposit bills have bottle recycling rates that exceed 70 percent. But Delaware officials testified during their legislative battle that the state’s bottle recycling rate was only 12 percent because many retailers refused to accept returned bottles.

The bill, which the Legislature approved May 11, establishes a 4-cent per container recycling fee, starting December 1. It is designed to provide start-up funds to help waste-haulers start single-stream curbside recycling.

The bill mandates that all municipal and private waste haulers provide such curbside recycling pickup for single-family homes starting September 15, 2011, for multi-family residences starting January 1, 2013, and for commercial sites by 2014.

The fee is scheduled for sunset December 1, 2014 or after $22 million is raised.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell supports the bill and is expected to sign it into law. However, several Republican legislators have said they would challenge the law in court, as the tax amounts to a new fee. According to state law, bills that mandate new fees need a 75 percent majority to pass, which the bill did not receive.

Collins said the repeal of the Delaware bottle bill, while certainly unwelcome, won’t have much effect on the national bottle recycling rate.

Delaware has less than 900,000 people and its now-repealed bottle bill only covered 19 percent of beverages sold in Delaware, Collins said. “The impact to the national recycling rate is likely to be less than one-tenth of 1 percent.”

Conversely, the addition of water bottles to the Connecticut and New York bottle bills last year could increase the amount of beverage containers recycled nationwide by 2 percentage points if the bottles added to those deposit laws are recycled at the same recycling rate as in other bottle bill states, she said.

“This is a pretty unusual approach,” Collins said of the Delaware bill. “This tax places a burden on consumers only and has them paying for curbside, apartment and even commercial recycling. Consumers will be subsidizing the producers and that is unfair.”

The Delaware law goes against recent trends, as a number of states (Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma) are now looking at expanding bottles or at extended producer responsibility laws to reduce waste and advance recycling.

Original Story on Plastics News