I can see by yesterday's Frazz comic that Frazz lives in Connecticut or some other state that charges a few pennies extra for certain bottles and cans (mostly drink, such as soda and beer—but not water; I have yet to figure it all out), and then gives them back to you if you return the bottle to the grocery store.


What I still don't get about this system is, Why?  I mean, I understood it when I was growing up, eons ago, because the bottles were reused.  On the very rare occasions when we had beer or soda in the house, we were happy to return the bottles for the nickels they brought (five cents was worth a lot more back then), and so that the companies could refill them.  We always put our empty milk bottles back out on the porch for the milkman to retrieve—not for money, but so that he would in turn leave us bottles full of (pasteurized, but not homogenized) milk.

But those days were long ago and far away.  No one reuses bottles, and certainly not aluminum cans.  I assume that they are all sent from the grocery store to a recycling center.  Is a nickel, or even a dime, worth the effort of storing and returning the containers?  The real value is in the recycling.  The Swiss go through that effort because that's the way recycling is done there—there are no 5-rappen tips for doing what's right.  In our town in Florida, we collect all recyclables in one bin which is then picked up at our homes weekly.  It's as easy as throwing them in the trash.

The states that I know of that put a deposit on certain recyclables also have home recycling, so wouldn't the marginal cost of picking up all bottles and cans be almost nil?  Why, then, do they continue the old practice?

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 7:19 am | Edit
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Why do they continue the practice? That is a good question. I always assumed the reason for the 5 cent return was not to refill the bottles, but to cut down on litter. People would be less likely to toss the bottles or cans to the side of the road and instead would return them for the money. I suppose if you are one of those people who toss the cans to the side of the road, maybe you don't care about the money either, but some people do. I see plenty of people who pick up bottles and cans from the roadside to collect the money.

Here is what the state of CT website says:
"If we have curbside recycling, what purpose does the bottle bill serve?
States with bottle bills have a higher container-recycling rate. Because the material is collected separately from other materials (especially other plastics), the material tends to be less contaminated and thus is of a higher quality than material collected curbside. Also, because the material has a cash value, people are less likely to litter the containers and even if they do end up as litter, someone is more likely to pick the material up. This is especially helpful toward reducing litter at beaches and parks which may have inadequate recycling opportunities."

Also, CT does now have refunds on water bottles. The hassle for me comes not here in CT where I know I return my drink bottles and cans and recycle everything else, but in Maine where our family gathers. Some of the drinks have been purchased in NH and the other in CT or ME. This means trying to separate cans between those we can return and those that can be recycled. It also means training my siblings who, until recently, didn't have recycling at home (or at least nothing convenient enough to make it worthwhile).


Posted by dstb on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 1:24 pm

In Switzerland, we don't get money for recycling, but we do pay a fee by volume for trash, so whatever doesn't go in a trash bag saves you money. Of course, that leads people to dump trash in other ways, or flush kitchen waste down the toilet. What they do better than Japan, which has appliances in every ditch because people don't want to pay to dispose of them, is that you pay for disposal when you purchase an item and every store that sells appliances must take back appliances nomatter where they were purchased, so it's easy to save money and get rid of your waste that doesn't belong in the garbage.

I suppose every system is in the end quite a complicated mix of many factors.

Posted by Janet on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 7:48 am

Gee, Linda. I always considered you fairly thrifty. You don't think people would pick up 5 cents? The people I usually see picking cans up are the elderly or people that look a little down on their luck. I do not see soccer moms searching for cans. I suppose the elderly remember the depression and the others can use any small amount of money they can collect.

Unlike Switzerland, we are not charged for our trash unless we go over the 60-gallon limit of our container. If we have more trash, we can purchase special purple bags at several dollars each or, if it is a more regular occurrence, I think we can purchase another trash barrel. However, we can have for free as many 90-gallon recycle containers as we want. It is all single stream recycling except for things like electronics, paint, sneakers, refrigerant bearing items, propane tanks, etc. They take all these items and more for free at the town transfer station. This includes bulky items like furniture and mattresses if you can get them there. For hazardous waste, you have to wait for a special pick-up that occurs a couple of times per year. (We can even put those ubiquitous Cozy Coupes in our curbside recycling!)

I could put all my returnable cans and bottles in the recycle bins, but that just seems like throwing money away. We have struck deals with the boys in the past that if they help with the returns, they can keep some percentage of the money. Now, with Tom driving, I am prepared to turn over the whole operation and they can have all of the money. Given our overflowing collection of bottles and cans, they can make a decent amount.

I'm not sure about appliances. I know when we purchase a new appliance, part of the deal is the company will take away the old. I am sure a recycling fee is built in.

I could not find stats for my town, but I will note we are on CTs recycling honor roll. Public Works really has done a lot to alert people to all the things that can be recycled and tries to make it as easy as possible.

Posted by dstb on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 8:45 am

I'll admit to pinching pennies more frequently than most, but even I have my limits. I'm thrilled to use the $5 and $10 grocery and gas coupons that often come in our newspaper, but I rarely consider a 25-cent coupon worth the effort of cutting it out. Even if Porter cuts it out (a post-retirement hobby he's currently enjoying), I'd really rather not unless it's for an item and a brand I plan on buying in the next one or two grocery store trips. Most coupons are for things we don't use. If we had the deposit-return system, I might take things separately back to the store, as I do with plastic bags and styrofoam cartons, but I'd certainly be annoyed to give up the current system, and I do it for the recycling, not for the 25-50 cents we'd get back each week. There are plenty of things I'd rather do to save that kind of money.

As for picking cans up from the side of the road, I do a lot of walking and bike riding, and almost never see any recyclable trash. Where our county could do a lot better is in the public parks, which have bins for trash but rarely for recycling. When we go on a picnic I bring our recyclables home, but I know a lot is going in the trash that shouldn't. Maybe for large groups some enterprising child would set up a return station and pocket the profits. Big party of 50 people, two drinks apiece, that's $5. Not so bad if all you have to do set up your recycling station next to the trash bin, then take the bag to the store. But you'd have to haunt a lot of parties to make much money. Hmmm, maybe kids could start bidding for recycling concessions at the parks— a useful enterprise! If we had a deposit, that is.

I'd love to have a system where recycling was free but we paid by the pound for trash. Or even by volume, since that's easier to enforce, though weight is better. Mostly, of course, because it would be a bargain for us, but also because I think it would encourage less trash production.

County residents can get rid of hazardous waste (which includes computers and televisions) for free, though you have to take it to a centrally-located facility. Once or twice a year we can get rid of bulky items curbside. Yard waste (leaves and tree trimmings) is a weekly curbside pickup.

I remember when stores charged a fee to take away your old appliances, but for our last several purchases from Lowes they have taken them for free, with the explanation that they now recycle almost every bit of the old ones so it's worth their while. Whatever, I'm happy about it.

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm

I go back and forth on couponing. Mostly, I don't do it, not because of the time to cut them out, but because of the extra time required in the store to figure out whether it is worth using or not. Extra time at the store? I don't think so.

Posted by dstb on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 7:17 am

I totally agree about time at the store. :) That's why I only want coupons for stuff I know I'm going to buy. The best is my dishwasher detergent. I have one type of one brand that I like, they go on a BOGO sale on a regular basis, and when there are coupons they are usually for a decent amount. Those I'm willing to carry around for a while waiting for the BOGO sale. But there are not many situations like that.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 7:32 am

I'm with dstb on store time. I do try to think about sales, but the best money-saver so far is writing a list and having my husband shop - not buying extras is cheaper than sales any day . . .

And Heather, I simplified the Swiss system a bit, we do often pay by weight. If you produce enough trash for it to matter, you can have a container with an electronic reader to tally your weight, and when we get rid of big (no electronic) items, we have to put stickers on according to weight (or bring them to a station where it is weighed), but because volume is easier, the average household uses taxed garbage bags, which of course limit by size, not weight, but I figure it balances out in the end. It's only 17 francs for a roll of 10 35L (9.2 gallons), so it's not that bad.

Posted by Janet on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 8:39 am

We pay for our trash and recycling which includes one pickup a week. We rarely fill the cans except at Thanksgiving :)
The fee also includes lawn and leaf pickup twice a month for some months, once or no pick up in other months. Bulk pickup is once a month. Hazardous material is collected at designated locations in the county several times a year.
At this point in our lives I would prefer to pay by the bag but that is not an option. Trash removal is controlled by the township and thus I can't imagine free trash pickup (unless you pay for it in taxes though
my taxes are already ridiculously high).
I rarely cut coupons since they are usually for things we don't use. And even if I do cut a few, I almost never remember to bring them! I don't mind store time - I like to grocery shop. Which is probably why I do it several times a week (that and I never know what to make for dinner).

Posted by NMKB on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 12:10 pm

You are right, of course. The fee is included in our taxes whether we use it or not. By "free" I meant unlimited, to encourage recycling. For myself, I'd be happy to pay by the pound for that, too, since we don't have as much as most people.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Yes. our recycling and trash pick-up are part of our taxes.

Posted by dstb on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm

It's fascinating to me that people find it worthwhile to walk the beaches for a nickel here, a nickel there. I always thought those who went to the effort of picking up litter were doing it for community service reasons (either voluntary or forced). I mean, you'd have to find 400 cans and bottles to earn $20, and I've never seen littering bad enough to make that useful even in no deposit no return Florida. Maybe on the beach during Motorcycle Week.... Then there's always the question of whether or not people are more inclined to litter when they know they might be "donating" the value to someone willing to pick it up. But I suppose the powers that be have studied that.

Thanks for looking up the facts. I don't find the state's logic compelling, but at least I know the reasoning. Maybe what we really need is the incredible Swiss compliance rate. (See the second-to-last comment here.)

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, May 05, 2019 at 11:27 pm
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