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[greenyes] Deposit Laws: Waste News Editorial

WASTE NEWS - 3/17/03
Bottle bill: Nein, danke
By Allan Gerlat

Bottle deposit laws continue to be one of the most contentious environmental
measures in the United States. In 2002 Hawaii was the first state since 1986
to pass such a law, but now the new governor wants to repeal it. A national
bottle law gets introduced periodically but goes nowhere, thanks in no small
part to the efforts of the beverage industry.
Advocates and opponents of bottle deposit laws will continue to debate the
issue. But to see how difficult implementing such a law can be, look at
Germany, the fatherland of recycling. That nation passed a new deposit law
on cans and bottles Jan. 1. All carbonated soft drinks and beer sold in cans
or plastic bottles carry a new deposit cost of 27 to 54 cents per container.
The surprising result in a country renowned for its environmentalism is that
can and bottle sales from various producers are off 20 to 60 percent.

The problem, advocates of the law say, is one familiar to bottle law
proponents in the United States. The beverage makers spent their time and
resources fighting the law rather than developing the infrastructure to
return the bottles and cans. So German consumers now have to return
containers to the store where they were purchased and provide a sales
receipt as proof.

The situation underscores how much beverage makers need to be part of a
container solution, whether it´s a deposit law or something else. Beverage
companies, apparently around the world, hate deposit laws, because it adds
costs and hassle that they fear will discourage the consumer. In Germany, at
least for now, those fears certainly are proving true.

But long-term, the beverage makers will be better off to not bury their head
in the sand on the issue of what happens to containers. Bite the bullet and
work to make a bottle law fulfill its purpose with as little burden as
possible. Or come up with another viable solution.

Because ultimately, the manufacturers are the middlemen in the waste
management chain that begins with the consumer and ends with the
environment. In the final analysis, it´s consumers who will decide whether
they´re willing to pay to address a very visible part of the waste stream.

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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