Above: Supporters of Tennessee deposit-return gather at KP Duty's in Bristol, October 31, 2007, to celebrate the final mile of Marge Davis' 880-mile Cycling for Recycling bicycle ride to raise awareness of the bottle bill and gauge the level of public support. Left to right: Bob Mueller (who rode the final miles), Jim Elliott, Ellen Mueller, Fred Testa, Margaret Feirabend and Edd Hill.
Who supports beverage container deposits?
It's true: The vast majority of Tennesseans support a 5-cent deposit, with returns to redemption centers. That's not just anecdotal. And it's not just the results of informal polling by newspapers, legislators and door-to-door canvassers. It's the findings of two professional, randomized statewide surveys, the 2008 Recycling Poll by the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Tennessee, and the MTSU Fall Poll in late 2009. Even the pollsters seemed surprised, but the results were consistent and clear: Support for a container deposit is broad and nonpartisan, extending from rural folk to city dwellers, from the very wealthy to those of more modest means, from young to old, liberal to conservative and Democrats to Republicans. (Click here to see the demographics breakdown of both surveys.)
Tennesseans’ support for deposit-return is no fluke. A compilation of 42 polls from around the world show that support for container deposits averages 81 percent. In places that already have such programs, support is even higher—84 percent. Even among those traditionally against deposits, there is gratifying proof of a growing change of heart.
Even bottlers are supporting deposits
In 2017, the world's biggest distributor of the world's biggest beverage brand came out in strong support of a “well-designed” deposit-return scheme in the United Kingdom:
In February 2017, Coca-Cola European Partners, the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the world, made recycling history when it announced its support for a "well-designed" deposit-return scheme in Scotland—support which it later expanded to include the United Kingdom as a whole. You can read CCEP's official statement here.
Almost immediately, Coca-Cola Great Britain and three of the largest supermarket chains in Great Britain (Iceland, Tesco and the Coop) got behind the proposal. Since then, Scotland and England have given the green light to deposit-return; Wales is poised to join them; and Northern Ireland, the other jurisdiction that makes up the United Kingdom, is looking into it.
And more recently, some of the biggest bottled water companies on the planet have echoed the call for more recycling and fewer littered containers. On September 6, 2018, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) joined with Nestlé Waters, Danone, Suntory and other brands in issuing a report that explicitly includes deposit-return as part of a plan to “achieve zero plastic packaging waste from UK bottled water and soft drinks by 2030.” You can download the report here.
The significance of these statements and reports cannot be overstated. For more than 70 years, bottlers and grocers have been key forces against deposits. And even though the European branches of Coke, Nestlé and other multinational brands cannot be said to speak for their counterparts here in the US or here in Tennessee, there are signs of growing acceptance.
In Iowa, for instance, the wholesale beer distributors association has devoted a page of its website to describing the success of Iowa's 40-year-old deposit-return law and claiming well-deserved credit for the bottlers’ role and investments in making it happen.
The fact is, despite lingering claims that deposits are unpopular, inefficient and obsolete, bottle bills are not only here to stay; they are probably inevitable. In just the last two years (2016 to the present), nine new programs—Scotland, England, Malta, four new Australian territories, Jamaica and Maharashtra state in India—have been announced or implemented, representing more than 430 million people and bringing to more than 50 the total number of deposit-return "schemes" worldwide. Far from being the dinosaurs that opponents would have you believe, deposits are a time-tested solution to a uniquely modern crisis.
Let us know if you’re a supporter
If you or your Tennessee business, church, civic group or other entity supports a 5-cent deposit on glass, plastic and aluminum beverage containers sold in Tennessee with returns to redemption centers, please let us know and we'll add your endorsement to the appropriate category at the top of this webpage. You can let us know of your support via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or through our Get Involved page, or by completing and returning our entity endorsement form. If your entity has a logo, send that as well, and we'll display it proudly, with an embedded link to your website. Finally, we need more local government endorsements, so if you serve on your county commission or city council, please consider introducing a resolution of support. We'll be more than happy to provide information, speakers and other resources to educate your colleagues.