Bottle bill proponents aim to soon have a draft of legislation that would create a nationwide container deposit system, a bill they hope to pass in 2023.
Organizers say the bill, originally modeled after bottle bill provisions in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, could be introduced in the Senate later this year and pass sometime in 2023. The fate of the House and Senate will be determined in November.
The most recent draft calls for placing a 5-cent deposit value on most types of beverages except dairy products and would raise the value to 10 cents after five years.
Supporters first announced plans to introduce the bill in 2021, but the draft bill has gone through numerous revisions in recent months. The bill is now also known by a new name: the Return Every Deposit for Effective Environmental Management (REDEEM) Act.
During a presentation to the Container Recycling Institute on Wednesday, Maia Corbitt, a national bottle bill supporter and president of Texans for Clean Water, described the most recent draft as a “framework bill” with details still to be negotiated among stakeholders.
Supporters include the Ocean Plastic Leadership Network, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. Corbitt said other corporate and recycling industry partners are also coming on board. The National Stewardship Action Council, another supporter, created a political action committee last year to help fund the effort.
The draft bill currently calls for creating a beverage container stewardship program to collect and pay refund values. It also would pay “curbside collection entities” for the value of containers collected, she said. The program would aim for a 60% return rate after five years in effect, though the 10 states with an existing bottle bill would need to hit a 75% rate. States with a bottle bill would also need to collect the same container types as those in the national program. Unredeemed deposits would help to fund program costs and infrastructure such as MRF operations.
The draft also has provisions for establishing convenience zones, which are areas requiring a location for residents to return containers, though Corbitt said stakeholder conversations on that system are ongoing. Other frameworks that must be hammered out include establishing a plan for harmonizing container labeling systems, considering refill and reuse provisions, working out the U.S. EPA’s role in the process and other details.
Supporters say a national container deposit system is the best way to raise recycling rates and reduce litter, but bottle bills at the state level have faced an uphill battle in the past.
Congress is currently backlogged with other recycling-related bills, but the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act —which includes provisions calling for a national bottle bill with a 10-cent deposit rate — got attention during a House subcommittee hearing last week. Supporters of the draft REDEEM Act say the Break Free bill has too many provisions to pass in its current form, and separate bottle bill legislation could move more nimbly though Congress.
Susan Collins, CRI’s president, said recent bottle bill updates at the state level, including updated bottle bills that passed this year in Iowa and Oregon, are an encouraging sign that national attitudes could be shifting. “We do have more legislation that passed this year related to bottle bills than any year of the 13 years that I've been at CRI,” she said. A bill in Vermont failed earlier this year, while bills are still pending in Massachusetts and California where sessions remain ongoing.