The General Assembly’s update of Connecticut’s bottle bill may have been ho-hum news to some, but it highlights a couple of things: how very old the original bill is — it dates to 1978 — and how far behind the times it had fallen.
Starting in 2024, the standard deposit on returnables will double to 10 cents. This makes sense if only because of inflation, but it is also thought that it will increase the redemption rate, which could take some strain off towns’ and cities’ recycling costs and also address this state’s recycling problem.
Redemption rates on returnable bottles and cans have dropped below 50 percent, the CT Mirror has reported, and the state is facing the closure of an outdated regional trash-to-energy plant operated by MIRA, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority.
“It worked very well at first,” said Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, noting that the initial redemption rate was above 90 percent. “It has eroded over time, and the legislature didn’t respond. … When MIRA closes, suddenly we’re going to get smacked upside the head.”
Starting in 2023, the drink categories requiring a deposit fee will grow to include hard ciders and seltzers, juices, coffee drinks, teas, sports drinks and energy drinks. This makes good sense and reflects how much beverage marketing has changed in 40 years. Bottled water was added in 2009.
The bill also imposes a 5-cent surcharge on “nips,” those tiny liquor bottles that are so often seen discarded on the street but are not redeemable. And effective this October, the bill increases handling fees that beverage distributors pay to redemption centers, which is intended to encourage more centers to open.
The bottle bill update passed overwhelmingly — 105-42 in the House and 33-1 in the Senate — proof positive that recycling is now mainstream issue, not the concern solely of a pioneering few, as it was back in 1978.
And that is progress.