A volunteer poses with the bottles and cans collected at a Massachusetts watershed cleanup.
A month after the governor of Delaware proposed dumping the state’s beverage container refund law in favor of a new tax for community recycling, in-state and national environmental groups have come out against the recommendation. Delaware is one of 11 states that has a law providing for beverage container refunds, which are strongly opposed by the beverage industry and some beverage retailers. In January, Delaware Governor Jack Markell called for repealing the state’s beverage container refund law. Although he called it a modernized bottle bill, the proposal would, in his words, end the state’s “returnable deposit and retailers would no longer be required to collect returned bottles. The revenue from the bottle fee would go to help haulers and municipalities with the startup costs of curbside recycling, including helping with the purchasing of recycling containers for homeowners, new vehicles, and other recycling infrastructure.” He added his proposal would “dramatically increase recycling, reduce burdens on businesses, create jobs and restrain waste costs.”
In their response, Delaware advocates and the Container Recycling Institute said the Delaware law and refund system need to be expanded, not done away with. They pointed out that the current deposit law applies only to soda and beer in glass and plastic bottles, 19% of all beverages sold in the state, and is the only deposit law that does not include aluminum cans, although 50% of beverages are in cans.
“Expanding our bottle deposit law along with statewide curbside recycling will be the best way to keep Delaware’s ocean, waves and beaches clean,” said Melissa Dombrowski, Chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s Delaware Chapter.
Curbside recycling programs have been demonstrated to achieve a return of 30 to 50% of beverage containers, while the most effective refund states achieve 80% returns or better. Delaware’s rate is significantly lower than most other refund states in part because of the limited scope of containers covered.