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Living Less Unsustainably: More Deposits

John Fischer

Last month I had discouraging news about why recycling is not always the best choice- especially with our current recycling system.

But there is a better way than curbside. It works well, and we are already doing it.  Ten cent deposits on beverage containers have resulted in a 90% recycle rate. That's up from 64% with a nickel deposit. Imagine where we could get with a 25 cent deposit.

The deposit bottles come in three types. Glass, aluminum, and PET, short for polyethylene terephthalate. All the plastic and glass are recycled in Oregon with only some of the aluminum leaving the state. Some of the plastic bottles are finally being made into new bottles.

The deposit system generates a clean stream of materials that manufacturers want. The system is paid for by manufacturers, and unredeemed deposits.

If more products had deposits, and fewer types of plastics were used, recycling would greatly expand, landfill volume and resource extraction would decrease. Using PET and HDPE only would go a long way to reducing waste.

If all products had deposits, and container composition was mandate by law, recycling could take everything back.

Of course refilling is better. Of course bottled water is easily replaced by tap. Of course a large container uses less plastic than twenty small packages. 

Production of the petrochemicals is the beginning of the problem. The manufacture of unrecyclable mixed plastic containers is the next step. When the law requires extended producer responsibility, manufacturers will work on solutions instead of dumping the problem on municipalities. 

Copyright 2020, KLCC

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