Imagine our roadsides littered with cans and bottles again. Can’t? Neither can I, because Maine was one of the first states to pass a bottle bill back in 1976. NRCM was very involved with this initiative. Since then, Maine has achieved the highest beverage container recycling rate in the country at 90%. It has also helped create 1,200 jobs in Maine, at big recycling companies like Clynk that services Hannaford stores, to small redemption shops, like the one at the end of my road in Jefferson where I drop my bottles off.
And then there are the connected community benefits provided to my neighborhood Girl Scouts, sports teams, and other kids’ groups that empty out my bins in the garage on their bottle drives.
The beverage industry, led by Coke and Pepsi, has tried to get the Maine Legislature to repeal this popular bill for decades – without success – and now they are at it again. Why? Because they feel emboldened by the larger environmental rollback agenda being forwarded by the new Legislature. And because they don’t like paying the 3-4 cents per container that is required of them to take care of their waste product. Consumers get 5 cents to 15 cents, depending on bottle size.
Data don’t lie. States with bottle deposit laws recycle between 74% and 95% of their bottles and cans. For states without bottle bills, the average recycling rate is a dismal 24%. Without the cash incentive, we know from other states without bottle bills, that containers would be either back on the roads or towns would be paying for their disposal at landfills. Current proposals to exempt larger bottles could take away up to one-third of the revenue generated for recycling, which has, in turn, generated jobs like those held by my neighbors down the road.
I often hear stories of Maine kids who go to other states and can’t believe the amount of cans and bottles strewn along the roads. Makes me glad to be from Maine. Stand up for a strong bottle bill. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.