🔵 Ten states have money available for residents who return cans and bottles

🔵 Attempts in NJ to pass a bottle bill have been unsuccessful

🔵 Recyclers say a bottle bill would send New Jersey backwards

Your can of soda or bottle of water may inform you that returning the container to a proper facility can make you 5 or 10 cents richer.

That option is only available in select states, and an ongoing debate is whether New Jersey should join this list.

There's been a handful of unsuccessful attempts to pass a so-called "bottle bill" in the Garden State.

The debate was ignited once again on Monday during a New Jersey Legislature hearing about plastic pollution. Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, floated the idea, nothing that some states with plastic bottle deposit programs in place have recycling rates that are much higher than New Jersey's.

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The group Clean Water Action contends that New Jersey "needs" a deposit return system. In 2023, the group called for a 10-cent return on most plastic, aluminum, and glass beverage containers.

"Overall, New Jersey’s municipal solid waste recycling rate was 40%, whereas Maine with a Deposit Return System, for example, has an overall recycling rate of 74%," the group wrote.

Bottle Bill

Just 10 states have a bottle bill on the books — in many of these states, the system has been around for decades.

Bottle bill could 'dismantle' NJ's recycling industry

The Association of New Jersey Recyclers fears a bottle bill would result in ever fewer people correctly disposing of their recyclable bottles and cans — if people struggle enough as is to get items down to the curb, will they go through the trouble of driving bags of cans and bottles to a deposit site for a few bucks?

"Instead of it enhancing recycling, you're going to go way, way backwards," said Gary Sondermeyer, on behalf of the Association.

Sonderemeyer, who also serves as vice president of operations for Bayshore Recycling, said a bottle bill would put the entire New Jersey recycling infrastructure in jeopardy. Bottles and cans can account for 40% of a recycling center's revenue.

"We think that a bottle bill will basically dismantle the system that we currently have in New Jersey," he said.

Clean Water Action said a bottle bill may result in the loss of a few hundred jobs initially, but hundreds or thousands of jobs would be created in the long run.

As of now, there is no bill in the New Jersey Legislature that calls for a bottle deposit system.

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