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Editorial: A bottle bill is wrong for Minnesota

Published 12:05pm Friday, January 31, 2014

We have said it before and we undoubtedly will say it again: No one would ever accuse us of hugging trees. That being said, we would hasten to add there are some things that just make sense when it comes to being good stewards and caretakers of this planet we call home. One of those things that make sense and of which we are very much in favor is recycling.

It is precisely for that reason that we oppose the proposal that may find itself before Minnesota legislators in the upcoming session — a proposal that would place a 10-cent deposit on beverage containers. Our best guess is that rather than improving recycling throughout the state, the deposit would end up setting recycling efforts back or, at the very least, angering most consumers.

The logic behind the proposal is this: If you put a deposit on beverage containers — on soda pop bottles, for example — consumers would be more apt to recycle the containers because they would be losing money if they tossed that container in the trash. And perhaps there is some logic in that. There are those among us for whom it takes little effort to go through a six-pack of soda pop in a single day. The deposit would encourage us to recycle, the conventional wisdom would suggest, because if we don’t recycle, we would lose 60 cents a day, $4.20 per week and nearly $220 annually if we didn’t. So in theory, so it seems, it’s a good idea.

In theory.

In reality, however, the idea will probably hurt most people, especially folks like those here in Steele County where the county has gone to a single-sort system for recycling. In the current system, consumers can dump all recyclable materials — both plastic and glass bottles, cardboard boxes and even newspapers — in one container, take that container out to the curb and wait for that material to be taken to a place where it will be sorted and recycled.

Under the 10-cent deposit proposal, those of us who buy beverages in containers, which would be most of us, we would have a choice of continuing with the single-sort system, thus giving up our deposit, or getting our deposit back by abandoning the simplicity of the single-sort system and taking our beverage containers to a recycling center. Beyond the inconvenience of the drive, there is the cost of transporting those containers to the center.

And this is supposed to encourage recycling? We think not.

The adage rings true: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And in Steele County, at least the single-sort system not only is unbroken, it’s increased recycling rates. In just over its first year in the county, the single-sort system increased the tonnage of recycled materials by about 50 percent. And officials here estimate that recycling in Steele County likely will decrease if the state goes to a deposit-based system.

If recycling here — and in other counties, we might add — has increased as a result of single-sort, then it seems like a better idea to find a way to implement single-sort across the state than to go to the 10-cent deposit proposal. Better to go with a proven system than to try something that people can’t be certain will work.

— Owatonna People’s Press, Jan. 27