Since 2005, dozens of newspapers, opinion writers, columnists, political cartoonists, online news sites, broadcast media stations and trade publications have expressed their support for a 5-cent refundable deposit on beverage containers sold in Tennessee, with returns to redemption centers. We’re in the process of updating this page, but you can see some of the early pieces below. (Other news coverage is If you read, see or hear of more such opinion pieces, whether on behalf of a media company or an individual journalist, please let us know: marge@tnbottlebill or (615) 294-2651 (cell or text).
news coverage, articles, broadcast news, letters-to-the-editor or anything else in the media, pro or con, about the Tennessee bottle bill, please let us know that as well. Unless a commentator is wildly inaccurate or unacceptably unpleasant, we’ll post them here. And we’ll get in touch with the writers and see if we can provide further information.
The Deposit Genie.
Charlie Daniel, political cartoonist at the Knoxville News Sentinel, offered this commentary on May 3, 2005, after legislators declined to discuss the bottle bill during a House subcommittee meeting. Reprinted with permission.
Oak Ridge Observer
Thursday, December 2, 2010
We claim no mastery of the economic intricacies involved in the “Bottle Bill,” but it seems clear to us that this resolution represents the right thing—and a long overdue thing—to do, and we urge our County Commissioners to endorse it. You can learn best about how the Bottle Bill works by visiting www.tnbottle bill.org. There you’ll see it laid out in a way that makes a confusing topic quite clear.
But let’s change the focus from the economic “hows” to the environmental, economic and human benefits this bill could help unleash. While we East Tennesseans celebrate and enjoy an array of natural wonders and resources, including the Smoky and Cherokee Mountains, TVA rivers, lakes, and their tributaries, picnic, camping, boating, and hunting facilities aplenty, the shameful truth is that we’ve trashed them all, and bottles, cans, and other containers constitute a large portion of our trash. Those containers carelessly strewn over land and water are not only a visual blight on our region’s natural beauty, they represent a theft of natural resources from future generations who will need them and could use them—if we cared enough to do the right thing.
Further, who knows what dangers to human health may be encouraged, if not created, by the containers and their leftover contents that we have carelessly flung hither and yon and left lying there? The Bottle Bill offers incentives to help us do what we’ve delayed doing for far too long, and offers some economic benefits, too, without further “trashing” of this magnificent setting in which we are privileged to live. … What do you say, County Commission? Can we add our voice to those who have already said it’s time to do the right thing? TN Bottle Bill: the right thing to do.
One more push for a 'bottle bill'
Opinion by Sam Venable, columnist
August 26, 2010
What if a Tennessee lawmaker crafted legislation that would (a) generate millions of dollars in self-sustaining revenue, (b) create an estimated 1,500 jobs and (c) drastically improve the beauty of the landscape?
It probably would get bottled-up in committee and never see the light of day, that's what. At least it would if history repeats itself like it has since 2004. But Marge Davis, ever the optimist, thinks that won't be the case this time around.
"This is a grassroots effort that has been gaining support from citizens and industry alike," she says. "We're making an all-out effort to get it passed."
"It" is a law that would require a 5-cent deposit on most bottled and canned beverages. Although this initiative has proved quite successful in 10 states, primarily in the Northeast, it has gained little traction in the South.
Which may help explain why roadways and ditches in Maine, Connecticut and Vermont aren't axle-deep in bottles and cans the way they are in Dixie.
It is a gross understatement to describe Marge Davis as tenacious. Over the last six years, she has crisscrossed Tennessee and attended innumerable meetings on behalf of a "bottle bill." She estimates she has spent $50,000 of her own money in this effort.
"It's been quite a learning experience," the 56-year-old Davis told me from her home in Mount Juliet. "I've talked to people from every walk of life, every political party, every race, every ideology. Eighty percent of them support this legislation."
Such consensus-building, she believes, has resulted in a much stronger proposal."What we started with six years ago was not a good bill," she admitted. "It was a mishmash of laws from other states. But we have worked with every major stakeholder and done a lot of changing. That's one reason so many industry groups are now behind it."
This isn't your father's old "Coke bottle" deposit process. Under the new proposal, grocers and convenience stores would not be required to buy used bottles and cans from customers. They could if they wanted to, but it wouldn't be mandatory. Instead, the free market would take over via a network of hundreds of independent redemption centers across the state.
These facilities would refund the 5-cent deposit to consumers, keep upwards of another penny per container for handling, and then be permitted to sell the glass, aluminum and plastic to smelters and other wholesale processors. As a result, Davis says, the volume of recycled material, much-needed by industry, would be dramatically increased.
She estimates that the recycled returns (now about 10 percent) would jump to 80 percent. Considering 4.5 billion bottles and cans are sold annually in Tennessee alone, we're talking megatons of recyclable metal, glass and plastic.
Obviously, Davis isn't fighting a one-person battle. She enjoys a network of widely diverse interests - outdoor clubs to business associations, agricultural groups to county officials - that also are pushing for passage.
After being drowned out in the past by the beverage and grocery lobbies, they just might prevail when the General Assembly convenes in 2011. For the sake of cleaner roadways, I hope so.
Forever trashy: We won’t curb litter until it costs to toss
Opinion by Chris Fletcher, editor
Columbia Daily Herald
March 21, 2010
"Why clean it up? It will just be there again tomorrow.”
This is the attitude too many Maury County citizens have regarding roadside litter, and the depressing truth is their sentiments are based on experience.
Every spring, as green grass shoots up creating what should be a lush carpet for our gorgeous hillsides, it becomes instead a background framing endless tons of trash.
And every spring, hundreds of volunteers hit the highways for countless backbreaking hours, picking up the flotsam of fools.
Riding a tide of cigarrette butts are hamburger-wrappers, dirty diapers, cardboard boxes, chunks of truck tire and an endless variety of junk.
But beverage containers are the mainstay of highway litter. On a sunny day, broken beer bottles glint from every ditch. Once-shiny soda cans lie flattened, half buried in gravel. Dirty plastic bottles line every shoulder, guardrail and bridge. These containers, as much as any other type of garbage, have filled the bags I have lugged along as cleanup volunteer.
And no matter how pristine those volunteers leave a particular stretch of road, the trash is always back by the next year. Sometimes it’s back by the next day.
I don’t have the expertise or the space to examine the psychology of littering. But I believe it is the symptom of extreme ignorance or a total lack of pride in your community, state and nation. If you throw junk on the ground, you are no patriot.
No amount of anger or chastising will end this problem, however. Some people just don’t think. Some just don’t care.
They might care if they knew they’d be fined or arrested. But few people are ever prosecuted for littering, and litterers know it. This is not going to change. It’s extremely difficult to catch litterers in the act or to prove responsibility. Other people won’t take the time to report them, much less go to court. And littering ranks low on the the priority list for law enforcement.
So what else might make them care? Money.
The so-called “bottle bill” under consideration by a state legislative subcommittee would make a gigantic amount of the junk that now clutters our roadsides valuable. Valuable enough to pick up. Valuable enough to not throw out in the first place.
A lot of people are calling the proposal, which would put a 5-cent deposit on beverage containers, a tax. And for those who choose to throw their cans and bottles out the car window, it would be: a punitive, well-deserved tax. For non-recyclers who continue sending aluminum, glass and plastic to landfills — at great expense to all taxpayers and the environment — beverages would cost a little more. Some of their uncollected deposit money would be used to create container redemption centers and jobs.
But for those willing to make a small effort to recycle just their own containers — to try to help save the planet — there would be no cost. And for those who pick up other folks’ discarded containers, it would be a windfall.
Our county commission has supported this idea. A local aluminum processor says it would boost recycling.
But let’s be honest ... the bottle bill has little chance of passing anytime soon. It would be a radically progressive move requiring a boldness our state legislators currently reserve for gun bills.
Instead they will bow to the powerful lobbies that would be inconvenienced by this proposal, including beverage distributors and retailers. They will dole out weak excuses about fraud and other hurdles that could be easily overcome.
Then next year, when spring arrives, we will once again be treated to a trashy drive-through movie — a 3-D, technicolor look at human stupidity and our own weakness.
And yes, those of us who are bothered by it can get out there and pick it up. We will pick up as much as we can. But it will just be there again tomorrow.
A great new bottle bill
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Monday, March 15, 2010
Imagine there was a simple, no-cost way to create green jobs, fuel existing and new businesses, conserve resources, reduce litter, boost tourism, cut landfill costs and reduce litter and roadside blight. Not possible? Think again. Many states already do it. They have put in place what's widely known as "the bottle bill."
Tennessee has put off adopting the bottle bill since it was first introduced in 1979. Yet statewide polls consistently show that the vast majority of Tennesseans, of every age and political philosophy, support the bottle bill. Given all its benefits and wide public support, it's long past time for legislators to enact it.
That they haven't -- and the bill has been before them every year again since 2003 -- shows they are in thrall to the wishes and myths of special interest lobbyists who oppose the bottle bill, often for reasons that are no longer operable.
Among opponents are lobbyists for the malt beverage industry, grocery stores, the soft drink association, scrap dealers, chambers of commerce, trash haulers and, believe it or not, Tennessee Beautiful, which is afraid it will lose the litter tax that help funds its operations.
Under the current legislation, however, all these special interests are held harmless, and most would actually benefit. The eighth-of-a-penny container tax now used for little control (based on sales of volume rather than actual containers) would remain intact for use in broader beautification purposes.
All the bottle bill does is put in motion a nickel deposit redeemable fee on containers that distributors, vendors, retailers, citizens and scrap dealers ultimately get back as their beverage containers pass through the own chain of possession to the next entity in the chain. Everybody just passes the nickel down the line, and the redemption centers and recyclers all make a profit at the end by selling valuable resources that otherwise would use costly landfill space.
Most special interest groups apparently don't understand how the new bill works; if the did they wouldn't oppose it. Retailers, for example, would not have to use their floor space or pay employees to accept and pay back container deposits. Redemption centers that profit off their recycling sales would handle that. And, experience in other states shows, these centers would start-up (just as recycle centers would become profitable redemption centers) if the bill passes because two of the most commonly used containers -- aluminum and plastic -- are easily sold and highly profitable. The profits in other bottle-bill states easily offset the lagging market for glass.
Sponsors of the new bottle bill have turned in the evidence of that. A video they showed a legislative panel last week showed John Burnes, CEO of Marglen Industries, standing outside his carpet-fiber and container-resin manufacturing plant in north Georgia describing his desperate need for locally recycled plastic beverage bottles to make his products.
He now has to import such plastic from Canada and South America, at much higher costs, because the recycling market here is so weak. And it's so weak because neither Tennessee nor Georgia has a bottle bill. He says a bottle bill would serve him and let his factory expand, and add jobs.
Aluminum processors also place high value on beverage cans.
Scenic Tennessee's project director for the bottle bill act, Marge Davis, has accumulated an impressive list of advocates because of the convenience, ease and benefits of the new bottle bill legislation. Among supporters are the state's County Mayors Association; 13 county commissions that have gone on record; farmers, sportsmen and environmentalists; Mohawk Industries and Saint-Gobain Containers.
County mayors endorsed the bill because it would vastly reduce litter, improve tourism potential, prompt the start-up of 500 new businesses, and keep $50 million worth of container materials out of Tennessee's landfills.
Rep. Gerald McCormick of Hamilton County will chair a meeting of the legislature's House State Government Subcommittee tomorrow to vote on whether to let the bottle bill pass through his committee -- for the first time ever in Tennessee -- to proceed through the Legislature for further consideration. We urge Mr. McCormick to do Tennesseans a favor (80 percent, polls show, support a bottle bill) and help the move the bill, at long last, to a broader hearing.
It's time. Tennessee deserves it.