Florida Proposes 20-Cent Deposit on Bottles and Cans
If you see a penny on the sidewalk, do you pick it up? What about a hundred dollar bill? The moral is that increased financial stakes can change people’s behavior. It’s the logic behind bottle deposits: People are more likely to recycle a bottle for five cents than they are to do it out of the goodness of their heart. And in theory, the higher the payout, the higher the incentive, meaning more bottles will get returned.
Currently, ten states—California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont—have bottle bills, with redemption rates between 5 and 15 cents depending on the state and the type of bottle. And as the Tampa Bay Times reports, a couple lawmakers in Florida are interested in adding their state to the list—with what would become the highest bottle deposit in the country.
Bills have been introduced in both the Florida House and the Florida Senate seeking to add 20-cent or 30-cent deposits to any plastic, glass, or aluminum containers sold in the state that are between six ounces and a gallon in size. “It’s an easy and effective way to get trash out of our streams and lakes,” State Senator Kevin Rader, who introduced the legislation in the senate, was quoted as saying. “Instead of piling up in landfills, it gets recycled.”
The Tampa Bay Times suggests this sentiment is accurate. The bottle recycling rate in deposit states is reportedly about 70 percent compared to a mere 20 to 30 percent in non-deposit states. And in Michigan—one of two deposit states, alongside Oregon, with a base rate of 10 cents instead of 5 cents—that percentage is apparently over 90 percent.
So a 20 cent deposit sounds like it could be really effective. But there are still pros and cons for consumers to consider. Yes, you pay a higher upfront cost and have to carry bottles in to get your deposit back. But even beyond that, these programs cost money to run, which can increase the cost of a soda or beer up to several cents even beyond the redeemable deposit price. That said, a little more effort and a bit more cost could also be seen as a small price to pay to reduce litter.
But good news for people who hate wrapping their heads around pros and cons: Graham Brink, the Tampa Bay Times Business Columnist behind the piece, believes that the bill is unlikely to pass regardless. “Rader and Rep. Richard Stark, who filed the House bill, are both Democrats in a Republican-dominated Legislature. Rader and others have tried this in the past with no success,” he writes before adding, “Nationally, it’s been years since a state started a new deposit program. The distributors are a powerful lobby, who often get their way.” So don’t start saving up bottles to drive them to Florida quite yet.