A Bottle Bill for Ohio -- Catching up with the progressive

Submitted by Susan Miller on Mon, 05/28/2007 - 08:34.


In Sunday's NYTimes ran this article about Bottle Bills:

The Unintended Consequences of Hyperhydration

When, oh when will Ohio get with the program? Maybe it can happen during a Strickland administration.

I grew up in a coastal community during the rise of the pop top can. Walking the beach you had to look down so you wouldn't end up with a gash in your foot from someone's casually discarded "pop top" from their soda can. We collected them and made chains with them protecting other beach walkers from the hazard of a bloody sand filled foot on which to hobble back to the blanket and a flip flop. That was the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Then we learned that soda pop six pack rings were drowning water fowl and entangling fish -- cut them we learned. We all watched the Native American with the big tear rolling down his cheek on television; then as Americans began to learn that the end of the fast food meal should not be tossing the paper and plastic containers out the window of the speeding car. I can remember my father railing against this fast food business -- he would never allow us to eat in the car. Cars are for transportation he said, not for dining. You want to dine as you travel? Ride a train, he would say. He hated McDonald's and the other burger joints; he despised drive ups and thank god didn't live long enough to really be subjected to drive thrus. He would have had a stroke to know about the growing preponderance of water sold in PET containers. I can hear him now saying, here's a glass, use the tap. Though my mother raised in Georgia had us drinking Coke to calm an upset stomach, Dad warned that Coke had become a worthless agent of tooth decay once it ejected cocaine. They had to use more sugar and caffeine to stay in business he would say. Why else would someone want to drink it? He hated commercials and would often be found reading a magazine in front of the News Hour or other PBS shows or if he watched commercial television, he would mute the thing and read the New Yorker during commercials. My Dad was the person I know who actually read the New Yorker cover to cover every week (and that's not all!)

All this is to say that I was raised in a waste not, want not household – a learn and improve household. We didn't have a deposit on bottles in Florida, and this worried my Dad. We were meticulous about pack it in pack it out. If you had a picnic, you carried the plates with you and brought everything you didn't eat home for washing – no to paper plates. He succumbed to my mother's demand for paper towels and napkins, but he didn't like it.

I am amazed at the amount of fossil fuel we use to have a drink of water somewhere in our midday travels. I am guilty at times of purchasing these bottles when there is not an alternative, but I try to avoid it. I fight this issue with my husband when I feel I might have a chance. However, since the idea that water in a bottle is somehow better than what comes from your tap has pervaded our society, we do need to contend with the container issue. (read this article in Earthwatch Ohio page 6 on the facts about bottled vs. tap water).

As the Times article notes, states that have old bottle bills are trying to update them, Ohio doesn't yet have one. Now is a good time for us to create one that will be a good solution for the grocers, the industry and the environment. Is anyone working on this? It seems there was a push back in 1991 in the Voinovich era. Solid Waste Advisors talked about it in a 2002 meeting: "It was mentioned that a federal bottle bill had been introduced by Senator Jeffords from Vermont. In addition, US EPA recently proposed rules for devices containing mercury and CRT’s which are currently out for public comment. SWAC members were interested in obtaining more information and asked questions about the bottle bill." Ultimately I found this:

This is from the current website of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources:


Why doesn't Ohio have a bottle bill?

Deposit laws are expensive.

  • In Michigan, the deposit system costs businesses and the state $94.5 million a year to operate.*
  • Ohio's $10 million recycling and litter prevention budget is about the same as what Michigan loses to fraud each year, from people collecting "refunds" on out-of-state bottles.

Deposit laws do little to encourage the recycling of other materials.

  • States with deposit laws must have other recycling programs to reclaim other materials, driving up costs even more.
  • Beverage containers are less than 9 percent of the waste stream while paper and paper products make up two-thirds of the material reclaimed through curbside collection programs.

Ohio provides local governments with financial and technical assistance to offer a wider range of recycling and litter prevention services to their communities.

  • Ohio has created a cost-effective recycling and litter prevention program that supports markets for recycled material through grants and incentive programs.
  • Unlike mandatory deposit laws, Ohio's litter tax provides recycling and litter prevention assistance to local governments, individuals and community groups and helps instill a greater sense of civic pride and responsibility.
  • Although bottle bills do have an immediate impact on littering and recycling rates for one segment of the waste stream - bottles - they do not lessen other types of litter, or increase recycling of other materials.

*Michigan Bottle Bill: A Final Report to the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund, July 10, 2000.

It may be time to rethink these lame excuses...

Yesterday Martha and I walked along the Towpath Trail south from Harvard Road. It was just a short walk around the backside of what must have been Alcoa (no signs visible on the massive structure’s backside -- someone more knowledgeable please correct me) and along the Cuyahoga. We spotted what we think must be a CSO outfall, some Cow Parsnip, a Brown Headed Cowbird, a goldfinch, some Red Winged Blackbirds and a now grass covered landfill. I told Martha about a dance friends had envisioned long ago that is premised on having to carry forever each piece of unnecessary packaging that comes from the grocer or other retailer, the Styrofoam flats under three zucchini or four tomatoes shrink-wrapped with plastic. Movement would be restricted as pieces were stuck onto the body of each dancer – ultimately halting the movement and bringing the piece to an end. She told me about having milk delivered in bottles years ago when she lived in Belmont, MA. I remembered that I thought we could benefit from a plas-tax on the plastic bags we take from retailers -- it would raise money for recycling programs and environmental concerns and encourage reusing bags.

It occurs to me that we need a bigger vision, an overview of all the resource management planning. How can we use the waste to create wealth? Let's begin as we have many times before -- with the consumer.

I encourage you to read through to the end of the article when time permits. You'll find this uplifting quote there: "Redemption is about taking something that is worthless and giving it value, about taking that worthless thing and changing it into something life-sustaining."

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Charge customers for packaging

Lots of interesting things here.

We too saw Red Winged Blackbirds several weeks ago in our yard in Ohio City.

In Canada when you go to the grocery store you have to pay for each plastic bag at the checkout - that reduces your use of them. They don't have much prepackaged produce. We can get lots of good ideas just a few hours north of here.

And, so funny, from the article you posted above, there is a quote that exactly describes my mom, who "hated commercials and would often be found reading a magazine in front of the News Hour or other PBS shows or if he watched commercial television, he would mute the thing and read the New Yorker during commercials".

Disrupt IT


Thanks for finding the image of "Native American" Iron Eyes Cody and for the replay (click on Cody link).  Remember the Ecology Flag?  Bottom line.   We are lazy and complacent and will always be so.  We can do something by avoiding overpackaged purchases.  I remember the war Mike White faced by trying to get the city garbage haulers to pick up recyclables.  Campbell dismantled the program due to the city budget, just as she cut Saturday hours at the rec centers.  Stupid.  Jackson reinstated the Saturday hours.  Will he reinstate recycling pick-up? 

Lazy or hopeless

I was sitting out in the back yard with my neighbors, last night, capping off Memorial Day, and a 32 year old single, childless woman asked the rest of us what we thought about recycling and a 23 year old childless gay man said he was against it... and they high-fived. When I asked why, the man said he didn't have any kids and wasn't planning to so he really didn't care what happened to the planet after he was gone - the woman said she is too lazy to recycle. But, another neighbor said her 71-year-old husband is very into recycling and I said my wife is as well, and that between to older man and my wife they could take care of everyone else's recyclables... there are bins a block from our house. So, in a few moments, we determined who in our compound cares about recycling and who does not, why not, and how to make sure their things are recycled regardless (those who care will take care of things for those who do not). I'm confident as those who care take care of the mess of those who do not, the uncaring will start to care, and will have reasons why... perhaps they will think more about their actions and the future... perhaps they will feel compelled to participate in proper environmental behavior... but, regardless, without government intervention or cost to anyone, we have doubled the recycling outcomes of our building in a single friendly neighborhood conversation. It is that easy, and every group of people - set of neighbors - can do the same, and would, if neighborhoods were healthy. Ultimately that is the solution to all our problems in America, being to become more neighborly. Is that possible in this sprawled, utterly homeless nuclear nation? If not, we all blow up.

Disrupt IT

Bottle Bill-Litter in Ohio

Hello, I saw your older comments about getting a boittle bill in Ohio. I agree that the excuses are lame as you put it.


Last week, I organized a few hour clean-up at Edgewater park beach in the upper portion of the park. Not only did we retrieve 5 bags of trash on less than an hour, I also made a point to contact ODNR HQ to make sure they will better manage this park. There were more black and mild tips than sand...bottles too. At least a bill can help clean some of this up as it is out of control in Ohio. Junk along freeways, around our cities and even in the more rural buffer zones.


It is shameful and a downright disgrace. If we do not have a bottle bill just because it will cost the indistry too much, that is really disturbing....because in '07, it cost ODOT some 4 million to clean up litter around Ohio highways alone. Now, they are even slack on doing this, so it is really embarrassing to see this state looking like this.


Anyway, I was going to take this up with Sierra Club to see if they can make a point of this in Ohio. It is needed badly, no ifs, ands or buts...  I find it shocking that this state has not yet brought this back. If you're interested in talking about this email me. riverlover33 [at] yahoo [dot] com I need someone who feels like you to go to a meeting.