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Vermont could repeal some bottle deposits

MONTPELIER — Vermont redemption centers and environmental advocates are opposing legislation that would repeal the deposit on one-liter or larger liquor bottles and beverage containers as part of an effort to move the state toward a single-stream solid-waste system.

The proposed changes are included in a solid waste bill sponsored by Senator Robert Hartwell, a Bennington Democrat, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

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The proposed legislation would not repeal the state’s entire bottle bill, which was enacted in the early 1970s. The bottle provision is aimed at generating discussion about how the redemption system can be phased out in exchange for a system in which all solid waste is collected and sorted, Hartwell said.

Supporters say the system is more efficient and encourages recycling because people don’t have to sort trash into different categories at home.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to the bottle provisions right now, but the point is that there has to be a comprehensive solid waste system,” he said.

David Ellenbogen, vice chairman of the Vermont Sierra Club, testified Thursday that the bottle bill has changed Vermonters’ habits and increased recycling rates. Weakening the law would harm the Vermont’s reputation as an environmentally friendly state.

Redemption center owners argue that any weakening of the bottle bill law would hurt their businesses.

Andrew MacLean, a lobbyist representing the Beverage Association of Vermont, said the industry is seeking a single-stream waste system that he said would be more efficient and save distributors money.

Distributors now pay a 3.5-cent handling fee for each can or bottle turned in to a redemption center.

If the redemption law is repealed, the beverage industry is prepared to pay for public recycling containers and launch “a very intense” public education campaign, he said.

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