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Could 2021 Finally Be The Year Connecticut Ups Bottle Refunds From 5 To 10 Cents?

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public

Gov. Ned Lamont said last week that he supports an idea to double the 5-cent deposit and refund for certain cans and bottles. And while the so-called “bottle bill” still needs to go through the state legislature, increasing the deposit is an idea that Speaker of the House Matt Ritter recently said he also supports.

Right now, Connecticut residents redeem only about half of the bottles and cans eligible for a 5-cent refund. 

Ritter told a group of environmental activists in January that doubling the “bottle bill” deposit from 5 to 10 cents would be his top environmental priority this session. 

“I think there’s broad consensus in the legislature, both Democrat and Republican, on going from 5 to 10 cents,” Ritter said. “If we can’t do it this year, I’m not sure when we can.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont said he supports the idea.

“I think it makes some sense,” Lamont said. “We have an awful lot of waste … taken out of state. We’ve got to do a better job of recycling. And I think what Matt is talking about with the bottle bill is a good start.” 

Environmentalists and many in the bottle redemption industry have argued for years that Connecticut needs to rework how certain bottles and cans are recycled. Proponents of increasing the deposit and refund believe that it would incentivize more recycling, reduce litter and cut down on the amount of waste tossed in curbside bins. 

Connecticut’s general fund has historically pulled in millions of dollars each year from unclaimed bottle deposits.

But reducing the amount of garbage thrown away is becoming a more urgent concern for towns now that Hartford’s trash-to-energy plant is slated to close next year, potentially sending tens of thousands of tons of garbage to out-of-state landfills. 

Local leaders worry the cost of transporting all that trash will be borne by local taxpayers and are looking for solutions now to reduce overall waste tonnage in their communities.

Christine Cohen, Democratic co-chair of the legislature’s environment committee, said Friday that her committee is discussing the 5-to-10-cent increase and that she expects to see a bill soon.

“This is likely to turn into a bill that includes solutions to deal with our bottles and cans in the state,” she said in an email.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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