First-time purchasers of beverages in Vermont could be forgiven their puzzlement over the state’s bottle deposit law: Wine cooler containers require a 5-cent deposit; wine bottles don’t. Cans from local Zero Gravity Craft Brewery carry a nickel deposit; cans from local Citizen Cider don’t. And that plastic bottle of Poland Springs sparkling water gets returned, while the one without the bubbles goes in the blue recycling bin.

For years environmental advocates have worked to widen the scope of the state’s bottle deposit law to cover the expanding universe of beverage brands and containers, especially the proliferation of single-use plastic water bottles. They argue that requiring deposits for these bottles, too, would cut down on litter and ensure more beverage containers flow into a recycling stream that is generally cleaner and more likely to be remade into new products.

For years, efforts to change the law got nowhere, always batted back by the argument that the glass, aluminum and plastic beverage containers dutifully deposited into blue bins were still being recycled, just through a different — and more convenient, efficient and cost-effective — system. That claim suffered a blow last year, when the Chittenden Solid Waste District admitted that instead of turning 18,000 tons of bottles from recycling bins into new glass, it had been crushing the containers and effectively dumping them without permits.

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