Local Politics

Supporters say bottle bill would bottle up litter

Posted March 18, 2009 7:20 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2009 11:32 a.m. EDT

— One lawmaker is recycling an idea that the General Assembly tossed out two years ago: Require a deposit on drink bottles and cans in North Carolina.

Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, says requiring customers to pay an extra 10 cents on each can and bottle could cut the amount of litter along state highways. The deposit would create an incentive for people to turn in the cans and bottles at designated collection sites to get money back.

Eleven states have so-called "bottle bills" in place. George Kiellwasser said the legislation has worked well in his native Michigan.

"When they put it in, it made just a huge difference along the highways," Kiellwasser said. "There's always somebody out there picking up bottles and cans and so forth."

James Jefferson, a Sanford truck driver, said a bottle bill in North Carolina could have a similar effect on area roads.

"That'll give kids some incentive to go out and pick up trash – pick up bottles and cans – because they know they're going to get a little money for it," Jefferson said.

North Carolina spends about $16 million a year cleaning roadsides, and officials said about half of the litter is cans and plastic and glass bottles.

Vending machine operator Chip Johnson said that if the bill were to become law, it would cut into his business by raising prices, however.

"When the prices go up, people don't drink as much," Johnson said, dismissing the notion that people could redeem their cans and bottles for a refund.

"In this hustle-and-bustle world we live in today, people don't have time to think about stuff like that," he said. "Basically, it's the government wanting to get more money out of everything."

Under the bill, any money not redeemed would be used to pay for the program and help fund other highway cleanup efforts.