Massachusetts Bottle Bill - Redemption Centers

A brief history of how government programs to collect deposit containers failed to keep up with the times, and what it means for e-waste and health care.

See Boston Globe on Struggling Redemption Centers...

I don't understand how people failed to grasp this when I was at Massachusetts DEP, and still don't seem to grasp it.

The bottle bill was an anti-litter campaign before it was a recycling campaign.  It somewhat arbitrarily went after "carbonated" beverages and not juice, and failed to anticipate bottled water.

Most of the bottles and cans returned for deposit are single-serve.  Most of those are consumed away from home, at the office or in the car.

Most of those are collected by janitors, custodians, and pickers, and brought to redemption centers (not to retail stores).   The redemption centers, in 1996, were 2% of the locations but handled 40+%  of the total volume.  They haven't had a handling fee increase since the 1980s and some of the distributors stopped collecting from them, making them drive out of state to deliver the containers for no additional fee.

Janitors and park-pickers need the redemption centers.  No one wants people with 600 cans and bottles inside the retail supermarkets.  And curbside programs don't do office buildings and parks (though that could change with my Tomra recommendation below).

So here are some recommendations....  15 years later

The 2 liter containers are normally consumed at home and shouldn't have a deposit, those should go curbside.

The MRFs, which handle the curbside containers, should be allowed to put bar code scanners and take the redemption (it would pay for the recycling, and also the MRFs could then be redemption centers catering to the janitors and park-pickers).  Then any retailer in convenient distance to a redemption center or MRF would not have to be in the redemption business, giving them an incentive to back redemption center handling fee hikes.

End the deposit on large containers.  Add the deposit to non-carbonated water and juice single-serve containers.  Let the MRFs and curbside trucks put Tomra scanners on and redeem deposits, let MRFs cater  to bulk collectors, janitors, etc.   Exempt retailers from takeback if they have a local redemption center (including MRF).

Put Tomra scanners on big roll off container feeders, allowing people to dump bags into the feeder and get their deposits.  Then even fewer retailers have to handle the containers, as the redemption would be a local recycling centers and drop offs.

These were my recommendations when I was at MA DEP.

The retailers and bottlers liked exempting the large containers and liked the idea of being exempt from takeback if a redemption center was close by.  But they disliked anything which improved and therefore perpetuated the "tax" on beverages.

The state didn't like losing the lost redemption (escheates or Clean Environment Fund), which they would lose at the MRFs with Tomra scanners.    I thought it was efficient, giving money directly to the recycling programs.

The redemption centers didn't like the idea of competing with MRFs.

Tomra and Envipco liked the idea initially but then were told by the bottlers NOT to like it so they stopped liking it.  The bottlers are obviously an important client.

This is not as interesting as electronics reuse, but it shows how a decent environmental idea gets corrupted by interests in the system and doesn't put up with improvement.  This is what happened to SB20, why the California state regulators were idiots not allowing the state CRT monitors to be exported to refurbishing factories, and idea even BAN seemed to like before BAN went gonzo and stabbed the SKD refurbishers in with letters to their national EPAs, like icepicks into their eyes, and killed them.

This is perhaps what I distrust about public health care.  The pharmaceuticals will somehow make a vitamin that costs millions of dollars which prolongs life 15 more minutes, and people will demand government pay for million dollar pills to extend their lives by quarter hours.

1 comment:

Samantha MacBride said...
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