Environmental Groups Urge Delaware Officials to “Mend, Not End” Delaware’s Container Deposit Law

Environmental Groups Urge Delaware Officials to “Mend, Not End” Delaware’s Container Deposit Law

Delaware environmental groups joined the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) today in cautioning Delaware Governor Markell that his proposal to improve recycling rates in the First State could actually wind up hurting recycling, burdening consumers and taxpayers, and driving up costs and greenhouse gas emissions for processors and manufacturers.

In January, Markell announced a plan to do away with Delaware’s refundable 5-cent deposit on beverage containers, replacing it with a nonrefundable tax that would go toward curbside recycling.

A superior alternative for increasing recycling of Delaware’s beverage containers is to expand the deposit to include all types of beverages and all types of containers,” said CRI’s Executive Director, Susan Collins. Delaware’s current deposit law applies only to soda and beer in glass and plastic bottles—a mere 19% of all beverages sold in the state – and it is the only deposit law that does not include aluminum cans, though 50% of beverages are in cans. In contrast, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York Oregon and Maine all place deposits on bottled water, and some states cover iced teas, sports drinks, wine coolers, juices, wine and liquor.

“Expanding our bottle deposit law along with statewide curbside recycling will be the best way to keep Delaware’s ocean, waves and beaches clean,” said Melissa Dombrowski, Chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s Delaware Chapter.  Since at least half of all beverages are consumed away from home—at school, in workplaces, at sporting events  -- these can not be recycled by a curbside program, and many are susceptible to littering.

No state has ever chosen to cancel one type of recycling program in order to implement another program that targets different materials. Instead, an expanded deposit program could increase beverage container recycling in the state, and if the state chooses to keep the unredeemed deposits, it could provide even more funding than the proposed tax on the 19% of beverages could ($7-9 million per year in unredeemed deposits, versus $4-6 million through the proposed tax.)

Many states use unredeemed deposits to fund curbside recycling or environmental programs. Massachusetts uses over $30 million per year in unredeemed deposits to fund environmental programs, and California’s program makes annual payments of nearly $130 million to curbside recycling. According to a 2009 report by the American Beverage Association, Delaware ranks last among 50 states in terms of curbside recycling, with 17-20% coverage statewide.