With the most comprehensive ban on single-use plastics in the US, and plans to modernize its c. 50-yr-old ‘Bottle Bill’ deposit refund system, the time is ripe to scope the potential environmental and financial gains to be made by getting a deposit system right in Vermont, with a view to making it happen.

Following testimony given by Sarah Edwards and Sydnee Grushack to the Vermont Single Use Products Working Group in October 2019, on the potential benefits of a modernized Bottle Bill and an extended producer responsibility program for packaging in Vermont, we were asked by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) to estimate any achievable positive impact that could be associated with extension of the current Bottle Bill, in terms of scope and deposit level. Our analysis found that increasing the scope of the bill and raising the deposit fee rate to 10 cents could result in:

  • 180 million more recycled containers per year
  • 15,300 tons more recycled materials by per year
  • An increase of 3% in state diversion rates
  • A GHG emissions reduction of 16,100 metric tonnes of CO2

Further details can be found in the full report: ‘Impacts of Increasing Vermont’s Bottle Bill Scope and Deposit Value.’

While there are obviously costs associated with the implementation of any new legislation we identified that, from a householder perspective, even in the worst case scenario – where all costs and no savings were passed to them – each household would only have to pay an additional 7 cents per month to their hauler. An alternative scenario showed average householder savings of 22 cents per month.

Our team assessed three different Bottle Bill modification scenarios, the financial impact they would have for key stakeholders, and the projected increase in redemption rates and, therefore, recycled tonnage they would drive. The report has been used in multiple policy debates and was used as the basis for the testimony Paul Bates, Director of VPIRG, was invited to give before the lead committee.

Paul Bates, Director of VPIRG, said:

“In challenging policy debates, it’s critical that we try to start from a position of shared understanding and facts and we commissioned the study in order to identify and introduce those facts. I was impressed by the work that Eunomia did, including outreach to multiple stakeholders.”

“In my testimony, I was able to put numbers on concerns that had previously been expressed simply as insurmountable obstacles. It turns out, the challenges are not at all insurmountable.”

“The Eunomia study armed us with the data and has immediately become an excellent resource for advocates, lawmakers and people just interested in learning more about the issue.”