Students To Lobby Lawmakers For Bottle Deposit System

SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4) – Some students from Salida are headed to the state Capitol on Wednesday on a mission to save the environment. They’ll testify in favor of a bill that would create a bottle deposit system in Colorado.

The students will go up against some powerful lobbyists.

At Crest Academy they’re surrounded by nature’s beauty, but the students know how to talk trash as well. In fact students there are so disgusted by all the trash littering roads and rivers, they decided to travel all the way to the state Capitol to ask lawmakers to do something about it.

“I’m prepared to give my opinion because I think it matters as much as an adults,” student Jessica Adamson said.

They’re lobbying for a bill that would require a nickel deposit on every glass or plastic bottle of soda or water bought in Colorado. If returned, the empty bottle would be worth 5 cents.

“Without the bottle bill, bottles will ruin our state,” Adamson said.

“In states that have this bill they have about an 80 percent recycling rate for these types of bottles, so it would have a huge improvement on Colorado’s environment,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver.

Pabon also says the state would make money. The bill demands distributors pay a half cent on every bottle manufactured, but the state would only reimburse for bottles redeemed. Since not everyone would recycle, state economists estimate the bill would mean a net gain to the state of nearly $30 million when fully implemented. It’s money that would go in part to K-12 education.

“So this is about saving our environment and saving our schools,” Pabon said.

But bottlers and grocers say there are problems with the bill.

“Curbside recycling is four times cheaper than bottle deposit bills,” Chris Howes with the Colorado Beverage Association said. “We’ve got sanitation issues with the product coming back to grocery store and we don’t think it will work. We think it will be a cost on the customer and ultimately a cost on the state.”

There’s no question the business lobbies have influence, but the students say they’ll make their voices heard.

Denver Recycles, the largest municipal recycling program in Colorado, is not taking a position on the bill. It will be heard before the State Affairs Committee.

Eleven states have bottle deposits.


    In our experience traveling over the last year, we have found that we are LESS LIKELY to recycle in states with deposit programs- even though we’re fanatical recyclers at home in Colorado. The tedious return system and payment logistics are frustrating and frankly turned us into consumers, not recyclers. Be careful what you wish for students- if recycling is your objective. This bill will turn a state profit, but may discourage all but the toughest recyclers.

  • Douglas Boyle

    I grew up in Massachusetts which has had a very successful and model bottle deposit program. I was quite taken aback after making Colorado my new home that a state that considers itself to be so environmentally conscious and forward thinking hasn’t enacted a similar program.

    A bottle bill will force more than just the average consumer to recycle, think of all the empty bottles that go in the garbage at bars and restaurants – a smart business is much less likely to let their nickels go. Also just because the initial consumer may not want to do the return there are unfortunately plenty of people out there willing to take the extra steps necessary to return bottles and cans that others have thrown away.

    Retailers may see it as an extra burden, but the systems involved in the recycling has become ubiquitous in states like Massachusetts. Most of the costly R&D has been paid for, an investment is required but is minimal and the benefits are worth it. This is something the consumers are supporting and will be ultimately a plus to their business.

    Single stream curbside recycling like in Denver encourages far more people to recycle than any other means, but this is not the end all and be all. Not only are combined curbside and deposit systems more effective than curbside recycling programs alone, the materials collected through deposit programs are of a much higher quality than materials collected through curbside recycling programs.

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