The wheels are turning, and even accelerating, toward a change in Rhode Island law that could help keep plastic, metal and glass trash off roadsides and beaches, and also force beverage distributors to help pay for the costs of recycling, which now fall entirely on communities and taxpayers. One mechanism for a cleaner state and enhanced recycling would be a new beverage container deposit-and-return bill, or “bottle bill,” now before the General Assembly. Supporters say the bill (H5502) is designed to be the gold standard of these laws: effective, convenient, and equitable to all.

The new bottle bill, despite its alliterative nickname, covers a deposit-and-return system for bottles and cans made of glass, metal, and plastic, containing most beverages, but not including milk, juice boxes, or juice pouches. The bill contains provisions designed to ease the objections of opponents of bottle bills defeated repeatedly in the past. These new provisions include an opt-out for small retail stores, and grants to help businesses adapt to the system, like purchase of “reverse vending machines” that accept returns.

A broad coalition of environmentalists calling itself the Zero Waste Coalition is pushing the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, D-South Kingstown. Kevin Budris, advocacy director for Just Zero, echoed the views of other supporters when he said the time is ripe for Rhode Island to join the 10 other states and many foreign countries that require container deposit-and-return programs.

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Author: Mary Lhowe, ecoRI
Mary Lhowe, ecoRI