Indiana bottle bill fails

This was written for my JRN 472 class and published on Great Lakes Echo on April 22, 2011.

Indiana bottle bill fails

By Nicole LaChance

In many Great Lakes states, countless soda bottles are tossed aside, never to see a recycling bin. The same goes for used medicine containers, juice bottles and food containers that are otherwise doomed for a landfill.

An Indiana state representative tried to divert these containers from the dump. Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, introduced a bill in January to put a five-cent deposit on all plastic containers holding beverages, dietary supplements and food and food ingredients.

“The bill as written would provide that a person may present an empty returnable plastic bottle to any retail merchant for a five-cent redemption,” said Diane Masariu-Carter, a lobbyist for the Hoosier Beverage Association, an affiliate of the American Beverage Association. The bill also made an appropriation to reimburse costs incurred by retail merchants when returning the containers, such as for transportation.

But House Bill 1505 has not received enough support to even get a hearing in committee. The problem: It would have added costs to Indiana’s budget.

“Ultimately, the fiscal impact of any such bill would depend on how the bill was crafted,” said Jon Vantor, deputy director of Indiana’s State Budget Agency. The Indiana Legislative Services Agency studied how the bill impacted the state’s budget.

Using data from Michigan’s bottle returning history and adapting it to fit Indiana’s population, the agency concluded that the bill would cost up to $127 million a year, mostly for updating computer systems and reimbursing grocery stores for the cost of transporting containers and bottles to be recycled.

The report also suggests the state could lose revenue from sales tax, as retailers who offer recycling could get a sales tax break. Although the state would gain some revenue from fines against those who violate the bill’s recycling provisions, the revenue would be insignificant, according to the report.

Former Indiana state Rep. Vern Tincher, D-Riley, introduced a similar bill in 2009 that would have required a 10 cent deposit on all returnable beverage containers. It also did not receive a hearing.

If the bill had passed, Indiana would have become the third Great Lakes state with a bottle bill. Michigan passed one in 1976 and enacted it in 1978. The deposit there is 10 cents -twice the amount proposed in Indiana. But it is only good for aluminum, glass, paper or plastic containers under one gallon and is only implemented on beverage bottles.  New York’s bill, enacted in 1983, is similar to Michigan’s but only requires a five-cent deposit.  A bill is pending in the Minnesota legislature that would require a 10 cent deposit on all beverages, excluding milk, in metal, glass and plastic containers up to three liters.

“The bottle bill increases recycling rates by providing an incentive to recycle and by complementing curbside recycling programs,” said Jamie R. Dean, director of the Recycling and Green Energy Division of the Monroe County (Michigan) Health Department.  “Bottle bills help prevent litter, increase consumer and producer responsibility and are a protection for the environment.”  Dean favors other state’s passing bottle bills as she believes Michigan’s improves the state’s recycling rates.

But industry groups, such as the Hoosier Beverage Association, disagree. They believe it adds labor, equipment and operating costs and inconveniences customers who have to take the containers to the store rather than to the curb with other recyclables.

“The HBA is and would be against a bottle bill,” said Masariu-Carter, adding that she cannot speak for the ABA in general. The National Grocers Association, The National Beer Wholesalers Association and the International Bottled Water Association have also opposed bottle bills.

The first bottle bill was passed in Oregon in 1971 and the most recent bottle bill was passed in Hawaii in 2005, bringing the number of states with bottle bills to 11.

For more information about the proposed Indiana bottle bill, click here. For information about bottle bills in general and Michigan and New York’s current laws, as well as Minnesota’s proposed bill, visit www.bottlebill.org.

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