Local News

Bill Could Make Cleaning Up Litter Profitable

Posted July 17, 2007 7:57 a.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2007 10:27 p.m. EDT

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Could a bottle of water, can of soda or bottle of beer end up costing consumers more if a state senator’s proposal passes in the General Assembly?

Lobbyists for the beverage industry say yes.

Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, however, says his Litter Reduction Act 2007 would clean highways, boost recycling and create jobs.

“I have touched no bill since I've been in the Legislature that was more popular with the people and more despised by special interests,” he said.

The proposal would charge consumers a 10-cent deposit on every aluminum, glass or plastic beverage container.

“It creates an economic incentive for people to pick up roadside garbage,” he said.

But the lobbyists for the makers of such products as Coca-Cola and Pepsi argue that deposits hurt sales and don’t clean highways.

“How are you going to get a 10-cent deposit on a French wine bottle?” Kevin Dietly a consultant representing the beverage industry, told a group Tuesday. “Somebody in a warehouse someplace is going to have to open that case of wine and put a 10-cent deposit sticker on every single bottle. Think that's going to be cheap? It's not cheap, it's a foolish way to recycle beverage containers.”

Berger’s bill is unlike the old days in which a person would collect empty bottles and containers and return them to a grocery store and be paid by a cashier. Instead, there would be a series of state-regulated redemption centers.

Aluminum, plastic and glass bottles make up 7 percent of North Carolina's roadside trash. And with 93 percent of trash left behind, bill opponents say it is not worth setting up a new state bureaucracy.

Supporters say it is time to do something. The bill is currently up for debate in the Senate.

Six states -- South Carolina, Maryland, Illinois, West Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas -- have similar bottle bill campaigns. The deposit amount is 5 or 10 cents in these states.