Bottle deposits

On a recent business trip, a conversation arose with the locals  about the state’s beverage container deposit and refund policy, which is meant to encourage folks to recycle.

It’s also caused a cottage industry for people to collect containers in neighboring states that do not require deposits and transport them into the state to collect the deposit fee.

To solve this problem, the state wants drink makers to produce unique packages that will only be sold in that state.

Regulation begets regulation.  The deposit/refund scheme causes abuse, so more regulation comes along to fix the abuse.  This will likely result in more unintended consequences and more regulation and bureaucracy to fix those.  Few people question whether the whole scheme is worth it or not.

However, the locals recognized the special container fix would likely raise prices for beverages in the state as manufacturers have to separate batches of beverages made for that state and change their distribution processes to make sure only outlets in their state get those containers.  It may also result in less choice as smaller players may opt out of selling in that state.

I mentioned that my state has no such laws, yet people there seem to recycle just fine.  It made me wonder if anyone has studied whether a container deposit scheme results in any more recycling or if states and localities just adopt such schemes because they sound good.  Anybody know?

One more thing, even if the scheme produces more recycling, how would we know if it’s worth it or not?  Certainly, some folks will say we must conserve landfill space at all costs, but that’s easy to say when you don’t have to pay the costs.  I wonder if those same people would conserve landfill space if they were directly faced with the costs.

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