Minnesota agency studies bottle bill options

State’s legislature considers bottle bill as means of hitting 80 percent recycling target.

January 28, 2014
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Municipal / IC&I

The Minnesota State Legislature has directed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to prepare a report that details its recommendations for a statewide recycling refund program for beverage containers.

The MPCA says the goal of the program is to achieve an 80 percent recycling rate. Supporters of the deposit program, or bottle bill, say the study finds that a recycling refund system described by the MPCA would result in the additional recycling of about 107,000 tons of beverage containers in the state.

In addition to the increase in the quantity of beverage containers recycled, the quality of the collected commodities would be improved over that of the existing recycling systems, say bottle bill advocates.

Annual costs increases associated with achieving these higher recycling levels are estimated to be:

  • $29 million to operate the recycling redemption system, incurred by beverage producers;
  • less than $1 million incurred by the state of Minnesota, not including state tax loss impacts that may occur from reduced in-state grocery sales; and
  • undetermined costs incurred by consumers in transporting beverage containers to redemption sites.

A group that has formed in opposition to the proposed bottle bill says the MPCA report drastically underestimates the true cost of such a system. “The proposed deposit scheme would cost $219 million per year, not the $29 million contained in the MPCA draft report,” says Tim Wilkin, a spokesperson with Recycle Smart Minnesota. The group describes itself as a coalition of retailers, food and beverage businesses, farm organizations, grocers, restaurants and distributors.

“While the report talks about the $179 million required annually to run the more than 400 proposed redemption centers, it doesn’t recognize the costs consumers would experience in transportation, which we estimate as $40 million per year,” adds Wilkin.

Supporters of the container deposit policy say annual cost reductions projected to result include:

  • $ 5.6 million realized by local authorities and individual single-family home waste and recycling service subscribers; and
  • undetermined savings to state and local authorities for reduced litter cleanup.

Recycle Smart Minnesota says the Gopher State is already a regional leader in recycling rates and says “a deposit scheme would hurt consumers with added costs and inconvenience.”

The current aluminum beverage can recycling rate is about 62 percent, based on sales data and waste composition study results, says Recycle Smart Minnesota, but the MPCA draft report shows only a 53 percent rate. Similarly, with glass containers, the draft report speaks of a 47 percent recycling rate, but the waste composition data suggests a 66 percent rate, according to Recycle Smart Minnesota.

A draft of the cost-benefit analysis report can be found at www.pca.state.mn.us/apfc83w.