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Neighborhood Issues in Huntington and Cabell County
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Swig, Swallow, Sip And Gulp!

Do you agree that the West Virginia State Legislature should pass a law placing a deposit on all bottles in order to eliminate litter on our streets and highways?

After reading the news report below, let me know what you think about this issue.

A News Report by Mannix Porterfield of the Beckley Register-Herald

CHARLESTON — By any standard, West Virginians collectively have a powerful thirst. To slake it, they are known to swig, swallow, sip and gulp, over the space of a calendar year, up to $1 billion in bottled water, soft drinks, sport juices and beer. “We drink that much, believe it or not,” says Linda Frame, a program manager for West Virginia Citizen Action Group.

Trouble is, many are inclined to toss the can or bottle out the side window of a motor vehicle, exacerbating a litter problem. For that reason, WVCAG is leading a renewed fight in the 2007 legislative session to impose a 10-cent deposit fee on all beverages. Many simply apply the familiar moniker “bottle bill,” but in reality, it’s designed to cover all beverages.

“We have a litter problem in West Virginia,” says Frame, who fired the opening salvos in what could be a testy legislative war by showing lawmakers a film on how the deposit program has fared in Maine, now approaching the third decade of such a law. “And we also don’t get as many of our containers to recycling centers as we could. This bill works really, really well in other states that have it. We could greatly reduce our litter if we could bring it here.

”Eleven states have lined up to pass such laws, and others are thinking about joining the parade — Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, and Mississippi, to name a few. Based on the annual consumption of everything from Gatorade to Bud Light to Coca-Cola, Frame says the deposit would reach some $100 million. If 80 percent of such containers were returned, that would leave some $20 million to run an enhanced recycling effort across the state, she says.

Already, the measure has come under fire. The West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association (OMEGA) scoffs at the proposed law as generally weak and ineffective in dealing with litter. “Even the most comprehensive bottle bill targeting all beverage containers only addresses 8.5 percent of roadside litter and 4 percent of municipal solid waste generated,” OMEGA says. “Besides, the return rates achieved by deposit programs are dropping rapidly, especially in states where comprehensive recycling alternatives are widely accessible.

”Frame disputes this, saying states with so-called bottle laws have witnessed a decline of between 60 and 90 percent in beverage container litter, and 40 to 60 percent in overall rubbish left on roadsides. “Unfortunately, it kind of gets into a battle of data,” she said.

Frame pointed to one publication reporting that “hundreds” of surveys put the litter reduction rate as high as 80 percent. Container-type litter fell by 84 percent in Michigan, while all litter fell by 41 percent.

OMEGA feels the bottle law would be unfair to stores operating along the border, since residents would merely go into another state to buy a 12-pack of soft drinks, avoiding the $1.20 deposit fee. Moreover, OMEGA says this could inspire a dishonest practice of such consumers turning out-of-state beverages into West Virginia recycling centers to pocket a deposit fee that wasn’t paid in the first place.

Frame says technology can solve this, by altering the bar code, or simply denoting a West Virginia product with a “W.Va.” attached to the label, as one popular brewery does nowadays to show states with bottle laws. “There is some really neat technology out there,” she said. “In Maine, there is a company that sets up a business on the parking lot of grocery stories. Consumers drop bags off. They don’t have to go inside. It scans the bags, gives you an instant count, and you can spend it in the grocery store.” - (End of news article.)

What do you think?