Or Bottle, Bill Wants Makers
To Pay For Recycling
first Congressional hearings on recycling in at least a
decade begin today as environmental advocates in the Senate
push to hold the beverage industry, not states, cities or
consumers, responsible for salvaging the billions of bottles
and cans thrown away every year.
James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent who became chairman
of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
when he broke with the Republican Party last year, called
the hearings to build momentum behind a national bottle
bill. It is an issue Mr. Jeffords has raised in Washington
for nearly 30 years but has never had the power to force
the Senate bill, much as in legislation that is expected
to be introduced in the House as early as this week, beverage
companies would be required to ensure that 80 percent of
bottles and cans are recycled within two years. Now, less
than half of aluminum cans, the most valuable of beverage
containers, are recycled.
the proliferation of curbside pick-up programs, recycling
rates have dropped over the last decade, in part because
Americans consume so many beverages outside the home.
percent of aluminum cans were recycled in 1992, for example,
but only 49 percent were salvaged in 2001, the lowest rate
in 15 years, according to a study released this week by
the Container Recycling Institute. As a consequence, the
report concluded, more than 760,000 tons of aluminum cans
were thrown away last year.
is the equivalent of about two Empire State Buildings, 3,800
Boeing 747's or nearly half a million Ford Mustangs.
is no good reason why this nation is not doing a better
job of recycling its cans and bottles," Mr. Jeffords
Mr. Jeffords even succeeded in reviving the recycling debate,
which has virtually lain dormant in the Capitol for the
last decade, is a symbolic victory, prompting environmental
groups nationwide to rally in support of his bill.
the legislative effort to shift the burden onto industry
has elicited fierce opposition from soft drink and beer
makers, who depict it as a tax on consumers, not to mention
the bill, Americans would have to pay an upfront deposit
of at least 10 cents on virtually all cans and bottles,
which could be redeemed upon recycling, essentially superseding
the 11 states that already have bottle laws.
beverage companies reached the 80 percent recycling rate,
they would have to surrender much of the deposits they amass
from wasted containers to the states, an amount that could
easily reach into the billions of dollars.
have a fundamental problem understanding why there's always
this focus on beverage containers," said Drew Davis,
vice president for federal affairs at the National Soft
Drink Association, arguing that bottles and cans account
for less than 4 percent of the garbage generated by most
cities. "Why not focus on paper or yard waste?"
that, the industry contends, it would have to spend up to
$10 billion to get a national recycling system operating.
Warehouses and trucks would have to make room for empty
bottles. Drivers would have to make more trips, requiring
more fuel. Much of the cost, the industry warns, would be
passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.