Photo: Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
HARTFORD — A bill hiking the bottle deposit from a nickel to a dime passed the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Wednesday by a 36 to 13 vote.
It now heads to the House.
The legislation would expand the current bottle bill, which is focused on mostly carbonated beverages and water to include juices, teas, and sports or energy drinks effective July 1, 2020. According to the Container Recycling Institute, it’s estimated that approximately $340 million in new beverage containers per year would be covered.
The bill also increases the fee from a nickel to a dime effective July 1, 2022, would also increase the amount of money redemption centers receive and lower the amount of money the state keeps from the unclaimed bottle deposits. The bill also allows distributors to keep 20 percent of the unclaimed bottle deposits.
The bill also expands the list of beverages to be included, counting juices, teas, sports and energy drinks.
The goal of the legislation is to get residents to redeem 90 percent of the containers that have a deposit on them.
Rep. Mary Mushinksy, D-Wallingford, a long time recycling advocate, told Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee members that jacking up the rate to a dime and increasing the handling fee will be a job producer for the state.
“If we increase our rates, modernize our rates, we will open new redemption centers, have new jobs,” Mushinsky said, nothing that several redemption centers have closed the last few years across the state.
She added that the extra nickel will also “help low-income people who collect containers” and charitable organizations who rely on bottle collections to help supplement funding.
But Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, said in his city there are people who leave bottles outside their homes for those less fortunate to gather and he wonders if that will still be the case if the cost per unit doubles.
McCrory abstained from voting.
Earlier this week, Rep. Michael Demicco, D-Farmington, co-chair of the Environment Committee, said the bottle bill is over 40 years old in the state of Connecticut and, like anything else, “it needs to be modernized, upgraded, tweaked a little bit.”
“The goal is to increase the amount of recovered and recycled materials,” Demicco said.
He said they are trying to increase the value of the products that are recycled because putting them in the blue bin degrades the value of the recyclables.
“It is high time that the state addresses this issue,” Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said, at a press conference where Demicco and Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, Environment Committee co-chair, pushed the legislation.
The problem is “far bigger than the 169 towns to solve. It’s not something we can fix on our own,” Knickerbocker said. “Since China has stopped accepting recyclable materials from the United States, and since the glass contamination issue has gotten so big, what used to be a revenue stream for many communities has now turned into a cost.”
He said Waterbury, which used to realize $15,000 in revenue from selling recycled materials through the system, is now spending $330,000 from the taxpayers. In Fairfield, $50,000 in revenue is now a $500,000 cost.
But the legislation has some powerful opposition.
Ross Hollander, chairman and CEO of Hartford Distributors, testified against the legislation. He said even though it would allow wholesalers to retain 20 percent of the funds collected, “we still respectfully believe that the large increase in the handling fee will hurt sales.”
He said it will increase the cost of a case of beer by at least a $1.
“Connecticut consumers can easily buy beer in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York; and these increases in container deposits and handling fees will certainly push more consumers across the borders,” Hollander testified.