The Tennessee Bottle Bill Project
because empties are full of opportunities
Welcome to TennCan, the all-volunteer effort to increase recycling and reduce litter in Tennessee through a 5-cent refundable deposit on beverage containers, with returns to redemption centers. Our name reflects the myriad of opportunities this program will make possible, from generating cash for nonprofits to providing high-quality feedstock to manufacturers. You can help make this happen by signing up for e-mails, adding your name, organization or business to our lists of supporters, or joining the TennCan Action Network to help educate fellow citizens, talk with state legislators or take dozens of other actions, large and small. With your help, TENN CAN do this!
Tennesseans on TennCan
"As owner of a recreation-based business, I know how essential it is to present a vibrant, positive, healthful image to the visiting public. I have invested heavily in making sure my property reflects the outstanding natural beauty of the area that surrounds it. I am sorry to say that my efforts are continually hampered by litter, most of which seems to consist of beer bottles, water bottles, soft-drink cans and other beverage-container debris. ... I respect voluntary recycling and cleanup programs. I myself helped launch the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program back in the early 1970s and currently oversee 60 miles of state highways in litter removal on an annual basis. But having watched the litter problem get steadily worse over the years, I am now convinced that the only way to change littering behavior once and for all is to make beverage containers too valuable to throw away."
--Bob Keast, owner of Birdsong Resort, Marina and Campground in Camden, Benton County,
and founder of America's only pearl culturing site, The Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm, Museum and Tour, in testimony to the Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee, April 2008
Sure We Can: The Transformative Power of a Nickel
Check out the video below about our friends at the amazing Sure We Can in New York City (video credit: United Nations Environment Programme). If you are involved with a group or agency in Tennessee that works with or advocates on behalf of the homeless, please let us know: Together we can make sure similar opportunities open up in Tennessee. Go to our Get Involved or Contact Us page.
Here are just a few of the good things a well-designed
deposit-return program will do for Tennessee:
Put a big dent in litter
Our surveys show that bottles and cans account for roughly half of Tennessee’s litter volume. (Just ask any deputy sheriff who overseas daily cleanup crews from the county jails.) By eliminating most of this portion of Tennessee's litter stream, TennCan will give us dramatically cleaner roadsides, waterways and public spaces. The proposed legislation also ensures the uninterrupted funding of Tennessee’s existing litter program known as the “county litter grants."
Photo: Third Creek, Knoxville, by Mark Campen
Raise cash for nonprofits
TennCan will generate millions of dollars for Tennessee's schools, libraries, the homeless, Scout troops, animal shelters, programs for folks with special needs, and countless other not-for-profit and community groups and causes, whether through bottle drives and donation bins, or through redemption centers that are owned, operated and staffed by the organizations themselves. In fact, TennCan requires that every redemption center in the state either be a nonprofit, or have at least one nonprofit "buddy."
Photo: Liverpool (NY) High School Marching Band raised $3,467 in one day
Boost recycling rates
Tennesseans recycle just 10% of the 4 billion-plus beverage containers we consume each year. TennCan will boost that figure to 80%, possibly higher, and it will do so in a way that ensures the most beneficial use for each container—even the glass that many people today believe is unmarketable. Why? Because bottle bill scrap is extremely "pure." Brown glass stays with brown glass, aluminum doesn't sneak into bales of cardboard, and high-value PET and HDPE don't get junk-mixed with plastics 3-7.
Photo: Brown glass at a Strategic Materials processing plant in a deposit state
U.S. manufacturers are hungry for the kind of high-volume, high-quality container scrap generated by a bottle bill. And nowhere is that demand so concentrated as right here in Tennessee, home to the world's largest aluminum maker (Alcoa), the Ashland City plant of the largest glass processor in North America (Strategic Materials), and (just across the border) the world's largest consumer of recycled PET plastic (the carpet manufacturers of north Georgia).
Photo: Aluminum sheet at Alcoa