I’ve been watching the work of the Legislature closely this year as a business owner concerned with the economic toll the pandemic has taken on our state. The majority of the Legislature’s work this year has revolved around the pandemic and offering economic relief to Vermonters. There is real and justified concern in the Legislature over how deep the economic impacts have been and will continue to be on individuals and businesses and I applaud them on their work to help our state recover. But unfortunately, that’s not the entire story of the 2021 legislative session. There is also a proposal rapidly making its way through the Legislature that would make Vermont more expensive and negatively impact our economy.
H.175 is an expanded version of the so-called “bottle bill.” The original bottle bill, passed in 1972, was designed to keep litter off our roads and out of our scenic pastures. The bottle bill incentivized people to bring recycling back to retailers by charging them and then refunding them a 5-cent deposit. And it worked. But that was 1972. Vermont didn’t have a recycling system set up as we do today.
Today, our recycling system is easy and accessible for all. Today, most Vermonters put their bottles into our recycling system. In fact, we have one of the highest recycling rates in the nation. Expanding an antiquated, out of date bottle bill that will only make it more expensive for consumers to buy products and recycle is not only tone deaf but appears to be a solution in search of a problem.
At a time when Vermonters are already struggling to make ends meet, this new and expanded bottle bill would impose a 5 cent deposit on lots of beverages that consumers pay no deposit on now like water, sports drinks and fruit juice. The cost of a case of water for example could increase by $1.20 for the deposit alone. Let me ask you: Does this seem like the right time to be increasing the cost to Vermonters at the grocery store?
And not only will consumers pay more but they could have fewer choices of products to choose from. Manufacturers based out of state and overseas may very well choose not to label products specifically for Vermont’s small market and choose to simply not supply their products to the Vermont market. I sell a number of products in my store. Will Gatorade really create a special label just for the Vermont market? In all likelihood, no. The cost wouldn’t be worth it to them and they could instead choose to not sell their products in Vermont. The end result? Higher costs and less choice for consumers.
What’s more, consumers will also pay more when they go to recycle. By taking the most valuable materials, such as aluminum and plastic, out of the single source/curbside recycling system and placing them into an expensive system like the bottle bill threatens our recycling system and increases the cost of recycling for every consumer.
So, let me ask again: Does this seem like the right time to be increasing the cost to Vermonters at both the cash register and for the cost of recycling? With no benefit to the environment and only harm to our recycling system, I believe the answer is no.
Consumers aren’t the only ones that would be negatively impacted by this legislation. Small businesses along our state’s borders, such as my own, would feel an immediate impact from this measure, as consumers understandably looking to avoid a hefty cost increase on their beverages would cross the border or order online to purchase cheaper beverages.
Vermonters, including consumers and business owners, have suffered enough economic pain from the pandemic. One only has to look at the record numbers of Vermonters seeking help from food shelves to know that this is not the time to raise the cost of Vermonters’ grocery bills. I know I see the pain and anguish in some of my customers’ eyes every single day as they scrape together the money to pay for their gas and groceries.
If you are concerned about the impact of this legislation on your budget, your local store owner or your recycling center please contact your legislator to share your concerns.
Marty’s First Stop in Danville