Thirsty for Revenue

Connecticut expands bottle bill to battle budget deficits.

Connecticut's bottle deposit law is not just for soda and beer anymore. In March, Gov. Jodi Rell signed a deficit reduction measure that expands the deposit law, commonly known as a “bottle bill,” to include bottled water.

Bottle bills require consumers to pay refundable deposits on certain beverage containers. Connecticut is one of 11 states that have such a law. Since 1980, Connecticut residents have paid a 5-cent deposit on each container of a carbonated beverage. The deposits are redeemed when the containers are returned for recycling.

The expansion of the deposit to bottled water took effect on April 1. However, manufacturers could apply for a waiver that would give them until Oct. 1 to make the necessary changes to their bottle labels. The state has granted waivers to about 40 manufacturers, according to The Connecticut Post. The new law also exempts three-liter and larger containers as well as containers made of high-density polyethylene.

The state will keep the unredeemed deposits to help its bottom line. Connecticut officials originally projected that the bottle bill expansion would bring in an additional $3.8 million by the end of June, but that was before the state granted the 40 waivers.

In an interview with the WNPR radio network, Jesse Stratton, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club's Connecticut chapter who has been lobbying for the expansion for years, admitted that financial considerations drove the move. But, “this really is the way to most cost effectively and efficiently assure that a very valuable commodity, this PET plastic, is actually recycled, rather than incinerated,” she told the network.

In another interview with WNPR, Craig Stevens, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, which opposed the expansion, dismissed the expanded container deposit law as “a money grab.”

“I think the other side of this is how cynical of a public policy this is,” Stevens added. “The legislature is betting that the citizens don't recycle.”

Before long, Connecticut might not be the only state with a recently updated bottle bill. Like its neighbor, New York state is battling budgetary woes, and officials are looking to beverage container deposits for some much-needed cash.

At press time, New York legislators were slated to vote on a measure that would expand that state's container deposit law to also include bottled water. Furthermore, the proposed legislation would allocate 80 percent of the unredeemed deposits to the state government and 20 percent to the beverage industry. Currently, the beverage industry gets all of the unredeemed deposits from the state.

According to a report in Newsday, New York officials estimate that the expansion of the bottle bill would generate up to $115 million each year for the state.