An overhaul of the state’s beverage redemption law — known as “the bottle bill” — has been recommended in a 10-1 vote by the House Committee on Environment and Energy. The committee moved to expand the law to cover most beverage containers and find new ways to pay for recycling. The legislation, H.158, would update the half-century-old law to include water bottles, energy drinks and other popular beverages. It also seeks to reduce the burden on the state’s beleaguered redemption centers, which are responsible for sorting and recycling the containers.
“Our redemption centers have come to us asking for relief,” said Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, who chairs the environment and energy committee. Redemption centers have to sort bottles by brand, according to Josh Kelly, solid waste program manager at the Department of Environmental Conservation — and they regularly encounter more than 100 different brands. “Redemption centers are already exceedingly strained by sorting,” Kelly said.
Manufacturers now pay the centers a handling fee of 4 cents a bottle. The legislation would increase that to 5 cents a bottle. As more beverages are bottled in plastic, which is not covered under existing law, manufacturers have expressed interest in getting their plastic bottles covered so they can recycle them, Sheldon said. The state’s biggest waste management company, Rutland-based Casella Waste Systems, opposes the bill, arguing that plastic bottles are already being recycled.