The Economic Powerhouse of Recycling

As we begin settling into our new administration and earth month increased dialogue surrounding the integration of sustainable practices into our established markets and industries have intrigued lawmakers. Market based solutions have long proved effective, efficient, and wildly supported among state and federal officials. On February 11th, 2020 the house introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (H.R.5845) as an amendment to the Solid Waste Disposal Act. The next day the Original Recycling Bottle Act (S.3281) was brought to the Senate floor and discussed then referred to subcommittees. Both of these bills are designed to establish green markets, consistently throughout the United States, by amplifying the recycling industry through producer and consumer responsibility.

Connecticut’s Recycling: A Leading Example

These two bills provide Americans with the vital navigation and optimism through a sea of plastic waste. Proposed solutions and mandates will encourage the exponential growth of domestic recycling and recycling infrastructure. In order to achieve this, producers of food service products (food and beverage containers) will be required to incorporate recycling programs into their business. In a recent study conducted by the Resource Recycling System it was revealed that in 2020 Connecticuts residential recycling contributed to over $1,159 million in the states economy. This sum consists of the jobs directly and indirectly implemented as a result of this recycling system. It is important to note the weight recycling carries in this particular state and how these systems have successfully contributed to such a large economic output. In addition to their streamline residential recycling program Connecticut is one of 11 states that has enacted a a Bottle Bill.

Implemented almost four decades ago, Connecticut’s container deposit system has provided a leading example of how this type of market based solution can yield valuable outcomes in both the economic and environmental sector. Recently there has been a downward trend in state recycling rates, prompting the amendment of deposit rates from 5 to 10 cents. However even with these hurdles posed, in 2020 the bottle bill contributed to more than $160 Million (14%) in the states economy. If a bottle bill can produce $160 Million in a small state like Connecticut, imagine what this would entail if all 50 states adopted them.

Components of Residential Recycling Total Economic Output – Connecticut (RSS ,2020)

The good news is because of S.3281 and H.R5845 we might not have to wait much longer for this type of container deposit system to be federally mandated within the United States. Although federal bottle bills failed previously, lawmakers remain optimistic with S.3281 and H.R5845. This is because it incorporates whats known as the triple bottom line into the legislation.

This particular approach is well accepted among environmentalist as it equally prioritizes all sectors of a business: people, profit, and planet. It is inherent that in order to successfully purse sustainable practices we must also ensure environmental, economic, and social equity along the way. As with all federal legislation this is not a linear process and requires ample time. Both bills have been referred to appropriate subcommittees for review, so in the meantime this provides us time to take initiative in our own state by passing a Bottle Bill.

If Not Now, Then When?

In the 2020 Annual Solid Waste Report published by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality it was unveiled that only slightly over
7% of waste processed in permitted facilities was able to successfully be recycled. To put this into perspective, that is equivalent to over 1,415,000 tons of solid waste out of the 16,745,894.34 tons Virginia produced. As for the rest, 73% (13,814,420.75 tons) was diverted to landfills and the remaining 11% was incarcerated. Virginia currently lacks the proper incentives and initiatives to successfully reduce the amount of plastic waste through recycling. We have failed to recycle even a quarter of our food and beverage containers. Our roadsides and waterways are scattered with bottles, cans, and plastic waste with no solution in sight. However, a glimmer of hope arose as Governor Ralph Northam announced the complete phasing-out of Styrofoam by 2025 (HB 1902). This was an ambitious and notable step towards a sustainable, plastic free future here in the Commonwealth. Enacting a Bottle Bill would seamlessly compliment this environmental initiative, providing a leading example similar to Connecticut in recycling and solid waste reduction. Pollution doesn’t wait for a solution (or subcommittees), the longer we choose not to enact laws to mitigate this, the longer our environment will suffer. There is always value in taking initiative in our own state, especially when the problem can pose a irreversible threat.

Virginia’s Sustainable Outlook

The prospect of enacting a Bottle Bill here in Virginia thrills individuals across the board. Bottle Bill’s provide a realistic and attainable solution to the ever increasing amount of food and beverage containers. By eliminating single stream recycling we can diverge our solid waste properly into recycling facilities. This will prevent gargantuan amounts of waste from ending up in landfills or incinerators that in turn pollute our air, water, and ground. Thousands of jobs, and a monetary incentive, will stem from the infrastructure and systems implemented under this container deposit system. Luckily 11 other states have taken a chance on Bottle Bills and have proven great success. One of the more notable changes that stem from enacting Bottle Bills is found not within our markets or even recycling rates, but the minds of individuals. Providing a fundamental starting point for communities to incorporate sustainability into their livelihood is vital. This could serve as a inspiration and influence for us and future generations to take charge in protecting our natural world. By performing the simple task of recycling a container (and receiving cash for it), Virginias can ensure that they will be given a second life, returned to store shelves, and keep clear of our environment.

Help Us Enact a Bottle Bill

Great news, you’re in the right place! We encourage you to donate or sign the petition located on our site to alert your Virginia district and state representative to pass a Bottle Bill. If you or someone you know would be interested in assisting in our efforts reach out to us, we’d love to hear from you.