Bring Back Incentives to Recycle Bottles

A massive number of crushed plastic bottles being readied for recycling.

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Bring back financial incentives to return recyclable bottles on the national level.

Only 10 states in the U.S. allow people to deposit glass and plastic bottles for cash with laws referred to as “bottle bills” (container deposit laws). Bottle bills help fight climate change and save the environment in countless ways. They prevent littering, promote recycling, save energy, reduce waste, create jobs, encourage responsible behavior and are invariably popular in the states that have them.

The entire country returned bottles until after World War II when the steel and aluminum industries realize they would lose a lot of revenue from military production. As a replacement, they began pushing throwaway containers for their convenience. Convincing people they’d rather throw away their bottles increased the market between 900 and 1,400 percent. It also created immense environmental problems. Instead of glass bottles used 10 to 15 times before being discarded, all containers, plastic and glass, were thrown away after being used once.

Beverage containers are the most common form of litter, making up over half of it. When a bottle bill is passed, beverage litter is reduced by 69 percent to 84 percent. Except for Hawaii in 2005, there hasn’t been a new bottle bill for 30 years. Opponents keep them tied up in legislative committees and spend millions making sure bottle bills never come up for a vote.

New opponents include waste haulers because they make money hauling waste to dumps and landfills. According to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in 1996, the beverage industry spent over $14 million in campaign contributions between 1989 and 1994 alone. They publicize lies that bottle bills kill both sales and jobs when, in practice, they have no effect on sales and create lots of green jobs.

How can we seriously oppose climate change when we continue to waste energy in 40 states by manufacturing bottles that get thrown away? With the entire planet at risk, how can shortsighted profit continue to dictate wasteful, climate-threatening policy? We must have national leadership on returnable bottles. Sign the petition to demand a national bottle bill.


Dear President Obama,

Your climate change plan is to be commended for recognizing this growing threat and for taking direction in the fight against it, but it makes no mention of restoring a national bottle bill. Only 10 states have returnable bottle bills which means we’re wasting energy in 40 states by manufacturing bottles that get thrown away and often litter our streets.

Those states with bottle bills enjoy high levels of support. They have a lot less litter and much less pressure on landfills, but bottle bill opponents spend millions on campaign contributions and ads with false information, claiming bottle bills kill jobs when it’s obvious they create green jobs.

Opposition to a bottle bill does not reflect the mood of the people–it reflects organized corporate interests in pursuit of profit. There comes a point where national security in the face of climate change needs to prevail. There was a time, not that long ago, when all bottles were returned and we need to get back to that. Please work to create a national bottle bill.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Matthew Dikmans

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