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That bottle of water is likely to become trash.

Byline: Recycling by Peter Chism For The Register-Guard

SUMMER IS HERE, and you may find yourself cooling off in an air-conditioned car or taking a dip in your favorite swimming hole. But sweet relief also can be found by drinking a bottle of water.

Do you ever stop and think about how many bottles of water we now consume? Think back 10 years. Remember how you could rarely find a bottle of Evian?

These days, bottled water is everywhere. Although some of these bottles are recycled, many of them end up in the landfill or as litter.

The explosive growth in the sales of new, noncarbonated drinks led to a 1996 campaign in the state of Oregon to expand the bottle bill to include deposits and refunds on juice, water and wine bottles. Months before the vote, the 1996 bottle bill expansion enjoyed a voter approval rating of 73 percent.

Unfortunately, the bill did not pass after a last-minute, anti-bill campaign that cost $3.2 million.

Six years later, the problem has not improved. Consumers have even more noncarbonated drink choices, and there are still no incentives to recycle, such as a deposit system.

Nationally in 1999, 192.5 billion beverage containers were generated. Of this amount, 78.1 billion beverage containers were recycled.

However, every year, 407 beverage containers per person ended up as litter or in the landfill. In addition, the recycling rates for beverage containers have declined every year since 1997.

Dramatic increases in the number of beverage containers and the inability of current recycling systems to keep up with increased consumption have diminished beverage container recycling rates.

This issue will be addressed on Thursday, when U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords holds an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to the Senate in Washington, D.C. Jeffords' committee is proposing The National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002.

The act proposes that every state establish a standard that requires a 10-cent deposit on all beverage containers. It also allows each state the freedom to develop the most efficient deposit-return program, as long as it meets the proposed requirements.

The National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002 aims to increase the recovery of used, empty beverage containers for recycling or reuse from 40 percent to 80 percent. In other words, the act would keep about 78 billion containers out of our landfills and off of our roadsides, save 32 million barrels of oil and create a much-needed national net gain in employment.

On Oct. 1, 1972, the state of Oregon recognized the problem of beverage container litter and implemented the Beverage Container Act, the nation's first bottle bill. The law helped cut litter in half and increased the recycling rate of beverage containers from 24 percent in 1972 to 93 percent in 1973.

In addition to litter control, the beverage recycling act provides the state with a other benefits:

A steady supply of clean, sorted recyclables that boost recycling markets.

A positive effect on the recycling of other materials through increased public awareness.

Increased net employment.

Oregon is one of 10 states to implement a bottle bill. As a region, the 10 deposit states achieved an overall container recycling rate of 71.6 percent, compared to 27.9 percent in nondeposit states.

The average person from a bottle bill state recycles 490 containers a year. By contrast, the average person from a non-bottle bill state recycles only 191.

It's easy to see how to motivate people to recycle. The question is: When are we going to do something about it?

Pete Chism is a waste reduction specialist with Lane County Waste Management. This column is provided by Lane County Recycling.


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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 6, 2002
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