- Arkansas State Rep. Vivian Flowers introduced the Arkansas Litter Reduction and Deposit Beverage Container Recycling Act (HB 1771) yesterday. As currently written, the legislation would enact a six-cent container fee with a 5 cent deposit return.
- Covered containers include a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Wine, liquor, hard cider, milk options and other categories would be excluded. The program would be managed by a newly created Office of Sustainable Materials within the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
- This bill is backed by the activist group Arkansas for Container Deposit Law, which participated in a press conference with Flowers. Both the Arkansas Beverage Association and Gov. Asa Hutchinson have yet to take a position, according to KATV. HB 1771 has been referred to the Arkansas House's public health committee for further consideration.
This isn't the first time Arkansas has seen a bottle bill proposal, and it is expected to face the usual political challenges. The beverage industry appears to be holding its fire until details about an existing 2 cent soft drink tax to fund Medicaid are resolved in the bill language, but after that, some believe their lobbyists will take a traditional opposition stance.
At the local level, there is concern from other parties about how this could affect funding for solid waste districts that are responsible for handling a range of other challenging hazardous materials. With national recycling market trends beginning to affect municipal contract costs in the state, it's possible there could also be concerns raised by MRFs about losing valuable containers — as recently seen in New York.
At the same time, students and activists involved in Arkansas for Container Deposit Law say action is long overdue to reduce litter and improve stagnant recycling rates in what is known as "the Natural State." And while it can often seem challenging to gain momentum around the concept in the U.S., ongoing action around the world indicates the concept is gaining support. Oregon's recently successful expansion to a 10 cent deposit has helped to further those arguments.
This legislation puts Arkansas among multiple states to propose new bottle bills entirely. That includes one that has drawn notable attention in Florida for proposed deposits of 20-30 cents, plus bills in Illinois, New Jersey and West Virginia. A study bill has also been proposed in Tennessee. In addition, legislation has been introduced to update existing bottle bills in more than half of the 10 states that already have them in place.