Recyclers Seek to Expand Deposit Laws

Published November 1, 2006

People living in one of the 11 states that have enacted bottle deposit laws are all too familiar with the cleaning, sorting, and returning–not to mention the upfront costs–associated with the laws. Now an association of plastic recycling companies wants to require people to go through the same process for many plastic containers.

The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) is pushing for legislation that would ban certain plastic containers from landfills and expand bottle deposit laws to include a variety of additional containers.

Consumers Not Recycling

With landfill space available and recycling companies offering consumers little or no money for their recyclable products, recycling rates have lagged in recent years.

Moreover, local governments are increasingly hesitant to fund curbside pickup programs. They cite the expense and air quality effects of sending large, polluting trucks to each residential address twice–once for garbage pickup, and again for recyclables.

The lagging enthusiasm for recycling has hurt APR member companies.

“Our number one feedstock is recycled bottles and we are starving for materials,” Phil Gavin, APR member and national procurement director for the PET recycling plant of Mohawk Industries in Summerville, Georgia, told Crain Communications’ Plastics News.

Mohawk Industries collects one-third of the plastic bottles recycled in the United States and melts them down into carpet fibers.

“Without bottles, we can’t survive,” said Gavin. “If the positions we are taking don’t make some of our members happy, that’s too bad.”

Litter Problem Already Solved

Jerry Taylor, senior fellow and director of natural resources studies at the Cato Institute, disagrees with APR’s efforts to help their members through recycling mandates.

“It is wrong for state and local governments to pass laws forcing people to recycle simply because recycling companies don’t want to pay people enough money to make it worth their while,” Taylor said. “In free societies, government has no business forcing people to give their own time and labor merely to help a for-profit company make a buck.”

Taylor added, “The fact that recycling companies need to get government to force people to do business with them underscores the problems with recycling. Recycling participation is low because it makes no economic sense. Why should private citizens bear the financial costs of these programs, rather than the companies who seek to profit off of them?”

Laws requiring deposits be paid on beverage cans and bottles were first implemented in the 1970s as part of the Keep America Beautiful campaign. Most of the states enacting such laws were in the urban Northeast, where curbside and roadside litter was most prevalent.

In the past 20 years, only one state has enacted a new bottle deposit law. Recycling analysts say forcing a new and expanded wave of deposits and coerced recycling is the wrong idea at the wrong time.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

“Cents and Sensibility: the Nickel Bottle Deposit Is an Outdated, Ineffective Law,” Boston Globe, March 5, 2006,

“Lake County, Ohio Scraps Flagship Recycling Program,” Environment & Climate News, February 2006,

“Recycling: Your Time Can Be Better Spent!” Intellectual Ammunition, April 2003,