Study: Bottle deposit law would boost recycling, at a cost

Used bottles
Used bottles are redeemed at a bottle collection site in Beaverton, Ore., in 2011.
Don Ryan/AP

A deposit law in Minnesota would boost beverage container recycling rates to more than 80 percent but would cost up to $29 million a year to operate, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency commissioned the study at the state Legislature's request. If lawmakers decide to move forward with the idea, Minnesota would be the 11th state with a deposit law.

The study assumes the program's potential cost would be covered by beverage distributors, which could result in higher prices for consumers of less than 1 cent per container.

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A public meeting on the draft study is set for Tuesday, and a House environment committee will likely discuss the study next week.

A deposit program would change the way beverage containers are currently being recycled in Minnesota. Consumers would pay a 10-cent deposit for every beverage purchased. It would apply to all beverage containers, such as milk and soda, but not to items like baby formula or syrup. To recover their deposits, consumers would have to cart empty beverage containers to a nearby redemption center.

Many Minnesota residents currently participate in curb-side recycling programs, but the bottle deposit study found that only 45 percent of all beverage containers are recycled under the state's current recycling regime.

Wayne Gjerde, recycling market development coordinator for the MPCA, said implementing a deposit program would create 1,064 jobs.

"It really does have a substantial job impact," he said.

Unlike in other states, Gjerde said the program would not add to state revenues and would be run by the industry, not state government. He said MPCA officials will gather input from the beverage industry and others in the next month and could make changes to the report.

"We're trying to make sure we have everyone's point of view, all the facts that we need to present this report to the Legislature," he said.

Although the study calculated a net cost for the program, the study's authors said they did not account for other likely benefits such as energy savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The study also concluded the program would generate $74 million in revenue from unredeemed deposits, meaning some 740 million beverage containers could still end up in landfills.