PA needs a container deposit system

Hard to believe the bottle was heavier hauled out than hauled in.‘Tis the season, for bicycle riding for some of us. I’ve hauled mine down from its hook in the garage. The wheels still are round and seem to stay that way under the weight of Yours Truly. Now to put some miles on it, as my medical person has been recommending. I walk quite a bit, or maybe it just seems that way.

It also is time for driving around in cars and tossing soda and water bottles out the windows. I’ve the pictures to prove it.

I well recall how my brother and I donned our backpacks and pedaled our bicycles around the county, picking up bottles – to be turned in for their deposit value, three cents for soda bottles and a nickel for large beer bottles. We made pretty good money picking up those empty containers.

Fast forward to many years later. On the top of soda cans now are stamped the abbreviations of the several states with so-called “container deposit” laws. There are nearly a dozen: California, Oregon and Michigan, each with 10 cent deposit, and Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii and Iowa.

Alas, Pennsylvania is not one of the states that requires a deposit on beer, soda and water bottle and cans. It should be.

Bottle deposits would be an excellent way to get our kids outdoors, where instead of video games they would ride bicycles, notice the flora and fauna, and pick up some spending money.

It is not as though we are not used to paying to care for our unwanted stuff, but with recycling, we pay for packaging for which we have no further use once we remove the contents. Then we pay the trash haulers and processors to carry it away. If the markets cooperate, the haulers and processors then sell the materials to other companies, which either turn the waste into something useful or bury it in landfills.

Deposits are not a new idea. We pay a deposit, for instance, when we buy tires and batteries without turning in the old ones.

Bottling companies object to deposit laws because, they claim, the added cost will cut into sales of the already overpriced product. For instance, a six-pack of soda cans, at five cents deposit on each can, means an additional 30 cents. Stores in those 10 states will attest the deposit does not hurt sales.

According to the website www.bottlebill.org, “Beverage containers comprise 40-60% of litter. The Solid Waste Coordinators of Kentucky found that 58 percent of litter collected consisted of beverage containers, pull tabs, and closures. Deposit laws significantly reduce container litter and other types of litter. Following the implementation of bottle bills in various states, container litter has been reduced by 69 to 84 percent (including in New York), while total litter has been reduced by 34-64 percent.”

There is plenty of evidence that deposits work. Whether purchasers take the containers back to the store to get the deposit refunded, or some of us send our young people out to pick up the cans and bottles to convert them to discretionary income, the effect is the same – markedly fewer photographers bringing back evidence of people’s drinking habits scatted along the roads and paths of our landscape.

And all the deposit states have provisions in their laws that allow them to keep deposit money that is not given back to customers, for instance to travelers who purchased the soda, beer or water bottles, then proceeded in their travels.

I wonder how many kids would want to go outside to collect cans and bottles for the deposit money.

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