Connecticut is in the middle of a waste crisis. The state depends on outdated and highly polluting waste incinerators that disproportionately impact environmental justice communities. Incinerators in Hartford and Bridgeport burn up to two-thirds of Connecticut’s waste, coating communities of color and low-income communities with toxic pollutants like particulate matter, lead, mercury and dioxins. Meanwhile, spending on waste and recycling has skyrocketed, driving up costs for cities and residents across the state.
With the Hartford incinerator set to shut down permanently next year, many are wondering where to turn for a solution.
Fortunately, lawmakers are considering a bill that would reform the state’s recycling system and help us out of this polluting and costly mess.
For years, Connecticut has neglected one of its most effective waste diversion and recycling programs: the deposit return system, commonly known as the “bottle bill.” The state has not updated the five-cent deposit that consumers pay on many beverage bottles and cans since the program began in 1980. As a result, only 44% of deposit containers have been returned to the state. under the deposit-return system in 2020. This is the worst refund rate among all states for US bottle bills. At the same time, Connecticut burns more than 60,000 tonnes of recyclable containers each year, and the rest ends up in increasingly expensive recycling systems.
To make matters worse, officials have not updated the handling fees paid by beverage distributors for containers collected by redemption centers and retailers. With insufficient processing fees, many redemption centers have been forced to close and bottle drop rooms in grocery stores are languishing.
Fortunately, these low reimbursement rates and limited reimbursement locations are issues that have been resolved. If Connecticut can increase its container depot, update handling charges, and expand the scope of containers in the system, it can set up a convenient and fully functional reimbursement system. Fortunately, the bill currently under consideration, Senate Bill 1037, would implement all of these much-needed reforms and breathe new life into a recycling program capable of saving money, reducing waste. and keep bottles and cans out of incinerators.
Senate Bill 1037 would increase Connecticut’s container depot to ten cents, which promises to dramatically increase refund and recycling rates for bottles and cans. States with ten percent depots collect more than 85 percent of their containers for recycling. The bill would also make container redemption more convenient by increasing handling fees paid by distributors, forcing more chain stores to install reverse vending machines to collect containers, and creating a subsidy program to help fund new redemption centers in underserved urban areas. Finally, it would expand the program to include all non-carbonated drinks like juices, teas, energy drinks and sports drinks that have become ubiquitous over the past two decades.
Modernizing the Bottle Bill will save cities and residents money, which is why the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Small Town Council are supporting Senate Bill 1037. Connecticut environmental groups are also supporting the bill because it will improve recycling and reduce waste. and help prevent containers from being burned in polluting incinerators in Connecticut communities.
Modernizing the bottle bill won’t instantly solve every part of Connecticut’s waste crisis, but it is a proven and profitable step forward at a time when the state must leverage every tool in its toolbox. We can – and should – protect our communities and our environment and save money by reducing and diverting waste and improving recycling. This legislation is the key to these efforts.
Contact your lawmakers today and ask them to support Senate Bill 1037 and modernize Connecticut’s bottle bill program. It is time to get our communities and our budgets out of the mess we find ourselves in.
Kevin Budris is a lawyer in the Zero waste project at the Conservation Law Foundation.
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