Letter to the Editor

Dear Lynne,

Your article “No magic bullet: Solving the Garbage Problem” in the May June of Save the Pine Bush newsletter, is very perceptive. In particular, your sentence, “Customers did not demand the throwaway bottle; it was done to allow the bottling companies to consolidate and grow bigger” is absolutely on target as is your list of 3 reasons for throwaway bottles, and I applaud your proposal “How about outlawing nonreturnable bottles?”

Let me offer some supplemental information and suggestions relevant. to you to proposal.

1. The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island already requires that soda be sold in refillable bottles. Perhaps beer also, I’m not sure.

2. Refillable bottles made of plastic (rather than glass) have been widely used in Europe. They are substantialiv thicker than the throwaway plastic bottles used in the U.S., but still weigh next to, nothing, much less than glass, and undoubtedly hold carbonation much longer than throwaway plastic. Although making bottles may not be the wisest use of increasingly scarce and costly petroleum, plastic refillables would be a big improvement over what we now have.

3. Many studies in the 1970’s showed that refillable bottles are beneficial not only in reducing garbage, but also in conserving energy and resources, and also in reducing cost to the consumer. Price surveys, including some by my church, showed that soda was invariably cheaper in refillable bottles, based on comparison of prices for the same size, same brand, sarme stores. Studies concluded that if all soda and beer were distributed in refillable bottles, our nation would reduce its energy consumption by more than 1/4 of 1%. That statistic was generated when refillables were still fairly common, so I expect that the saving would be closer to 1/2 of 1% today.

4. Refillable-bottle systems are economically feasible only if the redernption rate exceeds 90 percent. Therefore, even though Labatt and Molson beer are the only beverages widely distributed in refillables in this region today, container-deposit laws in N.Y. and other states are vital in preserving the viability of refillable systems because they keep people in the habit of returning ermpties to the stores that sell beverages. The last I heard7 the ret.urn rate in N.Y~ averayed about 75%, but that was an average of nearly 90% upstate and 50% NY City.

5. Unfortunately, inflation over the past 30 years has rendered the 5-cent bottle deposit progressively less of an incentive to motivate consumers to redeem empties. If our ultimate aim is the reintroduction of refillable bottles, we need to push now for increasing the deposit to, 10-15 cents on all beverage containers. Enclosed is a memo espousing this theme. I am somewhat uneasy about proposed legislation that would divert unclaimed deposits to the State for environmental projects. Revenue for such prodects is needed, but I fear that enactment of this provision might cause government to tolerate or even welcome consumers not redeeming empties, thereby increasing revenue but transforming the deposit into an optional tax (and losing the incentive to return empties and encourage refillables).

Allan Randall