The Vermont State Senate recently supported Governor Scott’s 2023 veto of H.158, an act relating to expanding the beverage container redemption system. The Governor’s Veto Letter to the Legislators expressed concerns on how H. 158 would result in higher costs to Vermonters and with the passage of the Universal Recycling Law in 2012, it simply made no sense to “toss aside” the progress that has been made towards recycling by diverting the most valuable materials away from the single stream recycling system. We appreciate the Governor and the 13 Senators who took the time to understand and acknowledge the unnecessary economic consequences and nonexistent environmental benefits of expanding the bottle bill.
While we continue to hold out hope that everyone involved in this issue can turn our collective abilities towards improving existing recycling infrastructure, the continued narrative in the media coverage seems to indicate that bottle bill proponents will seek to bring it back to legislators again soon. It’s time to move on.
The most successful, most environmentally and economically sustainable recycling program is single stream. It aligns with Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, the sorting technology is advancing regularly, and it is the most cost-effective way to meet Vermont’s recycling goals all while costing Vermonters substantially less than the bottle bill.
A 2018 study by DSM Environmental estimated the annual cost to operate an expanded bottle bill system at roughly $12 million. This represents a 50 percent increase over the current system and is nearly 10 times the per-ton cost of recycling this same material through existing single-stream infrastructure. The two systems are parallel, with the material being sold into the same markets, and while the single-stream recycling system captures the value from all recyclables and shares a portion back to Vermonters through a reduction in cost, the bottle bill extracts the roughly five percent of material with the highest value, without the benefit of the revenue sharing which helps control customer recycling costs.
And it’s not just about Casella. All recycling facilities rely on the material that is targeted by the bottle bill to keep recycling economically sustainable for Vermonters. The Chittenden County Solid Waste District (CSWD), the state’s largest solid waste district and owner of a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) that processes approximately 50,000 tons of recyclables each year, estimated that the expansion would result in a revenue loss of up to $350,000 annually. Casella’s MRF in Rutland, which is the state’s largest privately-owned recycling facility, estimates a loss of revenue of roughly $326,000. If this material is removed from single-stream recycling it cannot be sold to end markets, that value cannot be shared with customers, and the cost of recycling will increase for all Vermonters to offset the losses.
It's easy for proponents to paint this as a simple issue, with only recyclers in opposition due to lost revenue, but this is about the economic well-being of the entire state. In addition to the cost considerations outlined by recyclers, the Bill also threatens the economic viability of numerous other entities that voiced their opposition, including the beverage industry, distributors, businesses along the Vermont/New Hampshire border, and even some redemption centers.
While we do not need an expansion of the bottle bill, we do need to continue to focus our efforts on how we can increase the amount of recycled content in the products we buy, educate each other on what is recyclable, and deepen our understanding of how we can all recycle better, together, while continuing to invest in the critical infrastructure needed to put this material to a higher and better use. By focusing our collective efforts in those areas, Vermonters can continue to improve recycling and the two systems can continue to coexist without increasing costs to Vermonters.
John W. Casella
Chairman & CEO
Casella Waste Systems, Inc., headquartered in Rutland, Vermont, is one of the largest recyclers and most experienced fully integrated resource management companies in the Eastern United States. Founded in 1975 as a single truck collection service, Casella has grown its operations to provide solid waste collection and disposal, transfer, recycling, and organics services to more than one million residential, commercial, municipal, institutional, and industrial customers and provides professional resource management services to over 10,000 customer locations in more than 40 states.