Wrestling humanity away from single-use plastics will not be easy. But we can start by reducing our reliance on single-use plastic beverage containers.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing concerns caused many New England states with bottle return programs to temporarily stop enforcing collection requirements at grocery stores, supermarkets, and liquor shops. Connecticut was among the states pressing pause on bottle bill enforcement. But as of May 20, the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has reinstated bottle collection requirements at these retail sites.
My first day on the job as Connecticut River Conservancy’s newest River Steward was a whirlwind – literally. We got an early morning start with our friends at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for a windy trip up and down the Connecticut River on their airboat. As we came to our first stop and dismounted the boat, I was shocked and disappointed to see the amount of plastic bottles and nips littering Connecticut’s shoreline.
Despite many good intentions, curbside recycling has turned out to be a disaster. But that doesn’t mean recycling is dead. We have solutions. One of the best systems for recycling our plastic, glass, and aluminum containers is the bottle return program, also known as the “bottle bill” or deposit-return.
Although some New England states pioneered the bottle return system, they have since fallen behind. But New England can improve its recycling by updating or adopting bottle return systems in each state. This would help reduce litter in our neighborhoods, parks, and waterways; it would keep recyclable material out of landfills and incinerators; and it would lift some recycling costs off of communities.