Bottles and Cans (Just Clap Your Hands)

A point of contention for today’s special session is a measure that comes up whenever times are tight: the state putting a claim on unclaimed bottle and can deposits.

You know, the extra $0.05 you pay for every soft drink. That’s there because the government mandates it, in order to encourage recycling. However, about 30% of the deposits are never returned, and right now the distributors keep that money.

However, Gov. Rell and others now say that the money belongs to the state. In fact, this is something Massachusetts does, and according to the Courant article, it’s been upheld in court.

Every time this has come up in the past, it’s been shot down by a furious lobbying effort. This time may be no different:

But the powerful beer wholesalers and soda companies — with high-paid lobbyists — are fighting the proposal hard in the Capitol corridors, saying they are not making a windfall at all. They said it’s actually a wash because expensive crushing machines, shredders, warehouse space and union-paid truck drivers eat up all those nickels that go to the distributors.
[…]
“We understand it’s raining out. There’s a rainy day fund for that purpose,” said Patrick J. Sullivan, a veteran lobbyist who also is executive director of the Connecticut Beer Wholesalers Association. “Why single out beer drinkers?”

Sullivan said he would not oppose an increase in taxes if the levy were imposed fairly on all citizens.

“Be upfront about it. This is a hidden tax on the consumer,” said Sullivan, of the influential firm, Sullivan & LeShane. “Put it all at the curb. Just don’t single us out.” (Keating)

Let me get this straight, then: instead of the state claiming the money, which was never part of the price of the product, and works more like a refundable tax for consumers who bother to recycle, we should instead raid the rainy day fund and raise taxes? There’s an argument that’s going to fly.

Outgoing Speaker Jim Amann, however, agrees with the distributors. Interestingly, both Senate President Donald Williams and Gov. Rell are for taking the money, as is Rep. Chris Caruso, who said:

“I find it interesting that this archaic statute continues to survive. The industry should never have banked on this money to begin with because it wasn’t theirs.” (Keating)

Caruso is right– that revenue was never intended to fund the recycling program. But that won’t stop lobbyists for the distributors from trying to keep it.

Distributors and their lobbyists have been campaigning all over the country to stop additional “bottle bills” such as ours from being enacted in other states, not to mention efforts to expand them. They seem to have plenty of money to spend (note that they’ve hired Sullivan & LeShane). Maybe they could put that lobbying money into funding the recycling programs instead.

Right now it’s unclear whether the deposit money portion of the bill will go forward. As the article notes, two separate bills have been drawn up: one with the deposit money claim included, and one without.

Source
Keating, Christopher. “State Eyes Unclaimed Bottle, Can Deposits.” Hartford Courant 23 November, 2008.

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30 responses to “Bottles and Cans (Just Clap Your Hands)

  1. OK, so who pays for the recycling then?

    Consumers pay 5cents right…distributors pay the 5cents back to 70% of consumers, rest is supposed to go to the State under Rell’s plan. That leaves the distributors with no money to actually pay for all the recycling!

    Am I missing something here? Seems pretty clear to me that the uncollected returns pay for the program and that the recyclers/distributors need that money.

  2. AndersonScooper

    Hey, many of those five cent deposits are MY MONEY.

    If I choose to throw out a soda or beer can, I want MY MONEY to go to the State of CT, if not to some enviro-loving group like the Sierra Club.

    What I definitely don’t want is for any of MY MONEY to go to a fat cat attorney or scumbag lobbyist like Patrick J. Sullivan. They’re working against the environment, and have done nothing to warrant taking a portion of MY MONEY.

    Of course the bottle bill hasn’t been changed since it was passed in 1980. Let’s hope the Legislature will take the progressive step of increasing the deposit to a more noticeable ten cents, as well as changing the law to apply to all beverage containers, carbonated or not.

    And is it any surprise that Jim Amann doesn’t get it? How soon before Donovan takes command?

  3. According to the Comtoller’s Web Site, as of June 30, 2008 the unfunded liabilty of the State Employees Retirement System increased by $1.375 Billion to $9.253 Billion since June 30, 2006. The recommended contributions for F/Y’s 2010 and 11 are $897 Million and $944 Million (approaching a $Billion/year). Of course this does not include the Market declines since June.
    Better be a lot of cans and bottles out there.

  4. [quote comment=”38744″]OK, so who pays for the recycling then?

    Consumers pay 5cents right…distributors pay the 5cents back to 70% of consumers, rest is supposed to go to the State under Rell’s plan. That leaves the distributors with no money to actually pay for all the recycling!

    Am I missing something here? Seems pretty clear to me that the uncollected returns pay for the program and that the recyclers/distributors need that money.[/quote]

    There is also money made from the sale of reprocessed plastic and aluminum. Don’t know whose hands that winds up in, but it is worth something.

  5. [quote comment=”38746″]If I choose to throw out a soda or beer can, I want MY MONEY to go to the State of CT, if not to some enviro-loving group like the Sierra Club.[/quote]

    Read that sentence carefully… if TrueBlue throws out a soda or beer can… he wants the five cents to go to the Sierra Club. You know, because throwing out a soda can is good for the environment.

    Who should pay for the administrative burden to process these cans and bottles AND return the money to the State? If California has its own processing facilities (more state workers — exactly what we need), presumably California gets less than five cents back for each five cent can, right? The facilities have to pay for themselves, so they probably only return, say, four cents back for each five cent can.

    It sounds like the State wants retailers to sell a $1 can of beer for $1.05, and immediately remit that nickel to the state, and also process the empties for free. That’s not going to work, and any smart retailer will immediately raise the cost of a $1 can of beer to $1.10, or simply not process empties at all.

    This well-intentioned plan is a tax in disguise, in search of a mythical $25 million that can never be found.

  6. Good point, Matt, but I just can’t imagine how they are actually making any money on this…in fact, I can’t imagine how they are not losing money on this.

    Seems like a very complicated way to try to get a little money when these could cost us jobs (like the Teamsters and other unions insist it definitely will).

    Personally, I recycle all beer bottles for deposits, much to my wife’s chagrin. They pile up until I get a few cases, then I have to bring them back to my local packie (h/t to Meadowbrook Liquors – great guys) where they are part of a huge pile in their back room. Frankly, it’s a pain in the arse. We need a better way to do recycling.

  7. With all due respect to those who commented here, this bottle and can thing is so typical of how we function in this State. We’re talking maybe $14 Million against deficits in the $ Billions. Not worth the dust up in light of the major restructuring that must take place.

  8. Let’s hope the Legislature will take the progressive step of increasing the deposit to a more noticeable ten cents

    NEWMAN!

    (Kramer won’t have to go all the way to Michigan!)

  9. Expect an increase in sin taxes (alcoholic beverages that come in cans and bottles) to cover this archaic bottle tax.

    A couple of years back Penn and Teller on their Showtime Program “Bull-_ _ _ _”, dedicated the show to recycling. You can find it on You Tube. The only process that made sense and actually made money according to the experts they quoted, was recycling aluminum. Everything else was a waste of time and money, but it makes people “feel good” about doing something for the environment.
    The program featured Californians seperating their garbage into 8 or 9 different colored garbage cans for such things as, soiled sanitary paper, colored paper, sdtyrofoam, white paper, etc… Most of these people thought this was a good idea. Prabably all Sierra Club contributers.

  10. “We’re talking maybe $14 Million against deficits in the $ Billions. Not worth the dust up in light of the major restructuring that must take place.”

    Certainly your point is well taken but I do think there is some value here……. I say let people like AS et al. be happy the $0.05 goes to a place (anyplace) that makes them happy. The fact that $14 million is only the tip, of the tip, of the tip, of this multi billion dollar iceberg IMO only helps make clearer just how major, the major restructuring you correctly point out will need to be.

    BTW I am wondering do you know if when they speak of the $6 billion budget shortfall over the next 2 years are they calculating that shortfall by including the proper payments in FY 2010 for the state worker pensions and benefits you point out in your post #3 ?

  11. BTW I am wondering do you know if when they speak of the $6 billion budget shortfall over the next 2 years are they calculating that shortfall by including the proper payments in FY 2010 for the state worker pensions and benefits you point out in your post #3 ?[/quote]
    I would assume the Full contribution to the Teachers’ Fund is in there since the covenants in the recent $2 Billion bond issue require it. As to the State Employees, I’m not sure. I’m quite sure a full contribution to SE Retirement Health Care is not included since the required contribution would be north of $1.6 Billion.

  12. AndersonScooper

    Okay, why don’t we talk about the BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs that were put in place during the Rowland years?

    There are all these tax deals in place, a lot of them as secret as who gets the $700 billion, and whoops, no sunset provisions.

    Why not a full-scale re-examination of all the tax breaks?

    The $20 million here, $5 million there all adds up.

  13. >>why don’t we talk about the BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs

    Cite

  14. [quote comment=”38757″]Okay, why don’t we talk about the BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs that were put in place during the Rowland years?

    There are all these tax deals in place, a lot of them as secret as who gets the $700 billion, and whoops, no sunset provisions.

    Why not a full-scale re-examination of all the tax breaks?

    The $20 million here, $5 million there all adds up.[/quote]
    That’s Ok. Why don’t you identify the “corporate carve-outs” you’re talking about? I seriously doubt you’ll get anywhere near a $Billion, but fair is fair. So get specific about what you want to reverse, and let’s discuss them.

  15. [quote comment=”38757″]Okay, why don’t we talk about the BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs that were put in place during the Rowland years?

    There are all these tax deals in place, a lot of them as secret as who gets the $700 billion, and whoops, no sunset provisions.

    Why not a full-scale re-examination of all the tax breaks?

    The $20 million here, $5 million there all adds up.[/quote]

    I agree — please cite. I’m pretty sure you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Also, please recycle your soda and beer cans. Thanks.

  16. AS,

    “Okay, why don’t we talk about the BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs that were put in place during the Rowland years?”

    Please be specific……….Were they as well hidden from the voting public like the full cost of these state worker pension and benefit carve-outs have been?

    For years we have been told we have balanced budgets yet now we find to produce those balanced budgets these pensions and benefits have not been properly funded by many many billions of dollars. I for one would love to know exactly why? Were these BILLIONS in corperate carve-outs you speak of hidden as well? If so please be specific.

    You ask why not talk about them? I say let us all know what you know, so we can. There must be a whole lot of $ 20 million and $5 million examples you can tell us about to add up to BILLIONS.

    If we are going to take on some real major restructuring to get this state in order let’s get all the dirt out from under the rugs, no matter which party swept it there.

  17. The Democrats are talking about eliminating Rob Simmons’ position as Business Ombudsman. Fair enough, but let’s not stop there when it comes to getting rid of all the useless positions/people on the state payroll. They could start with all the Economic Development types they have up there who don’t really seem to accomplish much.

  18. Four straight posters have called you out, TrueBlue. Do you have any specific cites about these untold billions of handouts — other than from Demagoguery for Dummies, of course?

  19. [quote comment=”38754″]The only process that made sense and actually made money according to the experts they quoted, was recycling aluminum. Everything else was a waste of time and money, but it makes people “feel good” about doing something for the environment.
    [/quote]

    I looked into this argument a while back as well. It seems that there’s no one that thinks aluminum recycling is not worthwhile. It’s easy to reuse it, not technically complex at all.

    Another thing that is beneficial to recycle is cardboard. It’s easy to recycle. Furthermore, a lot of it comes to the same place, like the back of a grocery store. So they’re going to have to cart away a whole truck of cardboard, either to the dump or to a recycling place. So might as well recycle.

    Recycling newsprint seemed to be, from what I read, a wash. Probably slightly beneficial, but who knows how long demand for newsprint is going to last.

    Glass bottle recycling seems like a complete waste. 30 years ago, we recycled bottles, but we washed an reused them. But crushing bottles to remake glass or derivative products is not at all efficient. There are different colors of glass (green, blue, brown, clear), which mucks up the process a little. Pyrex also really screws up the recycling process. One pyrex measuring cup put into the glass recylcing process apparently makes a ton of the recycled glass unusable.

    Recycling plastic is also very difficult. You’ve got several different resins (HDPE, LDPE, PET, PP, etc) that don’t mix well.

  20. AndersonScooper

    Dobb, go to heck. (And quit being such a knee-jerk.)

    Yes, the carve-outs exist. Many of them are legitimate, but others are completely noxious.

    Cam Staples was on this several years ago, and no, there isn’t a handy-dandy list. But I will try to get you the legislative report.

    Do we all remember the ridiculous break we are giving to CT’s film “industry”? (A 30% subsidy!) What about the $20million plus giveaway Rell engineered for Cabela’s?

  21. [quote comment=”38765″]Dobb, go to heck. (And quit being such a knee-jerk.)

    Yes, the carve-outs exist. Many of them are legitimate, but others are completely noxious.

    Cam Staples was on this several years ago, and no, there isn’t a handy-dandy list. But I will try to get you the legislative report.

    Do we all remember the ridiculous break we are giving to CT’s film “industry”? (A 30% subsidy!) What about the $20million plus giveaway Rell engineered for Cabela’s?[/quote]
    Actually on these two, I might agree. The film credit deal was Jimmy Amman’s to build his version of “Hollywood East.” His thesis was that all the economic activity created would more than offset the tax losses. No question that’s a leap of faith and hasn’t been demonstrated quantitavely. Other states are getting into the act, and these guys will come where the best deal is. At best this is a race to the bottom with dubious benefit.
    I’ve been in business here for more than 25 years, and all the bending over backwards for the new guys like Cabela’s at the expense of the businesses that have slugging it out doesn’t sit well with me. After all, if the tax breaks are so critical to getting the new guys, wouldn’t the old guys benefit from the same things? And most of them have a proven track record of staying in the state. IMO, a tad prejudiced for sure, it makes sense, but doesn’t make for a fancy ribbon cutting photo-op.

  22. AS,

    OK so it seems so you have pointed out two examples of the Rowland carve outs you mentioned. Except one given by Rell, and the other by Amann.

    One by Rell to bring a business and jobs into the state, the other a Deomctatic give way hoping to make this state Hollywood East as JM says.

    I agree with JM. It seems strange we will give breaks to new business who never paid a dime in taxes to this state, while the General Assembly tries to run out of the state existing ones who do pay taxes. But hey this is Connecticut so some how to those we keep sending to Hartford that makes sense.

    I don’t dismiss the idea there probably are more but if we are going to keep kicking Rowland for this, let’s at least see some from his watch.

    Meanwhile do you have any position on how you feel about the General Assembly as well as our Governor playing fast and loose with the state worker pensions? We are talking billions ………..many billions……. Are you OK with that?? Do you feel the least bit offended by all this?

  23. Uh, guys? All 44 House Republicans supported taking the bottle money. Every single last one of them. Democrats killed this one.

  24. >>Democrats killed this one

    Two words can fully explain this.

    Free beer.

  25. AndersonScooper

    Jim Amann strikes again!

    What will Rell, Cafero and McKinney do when the big Dummy is no longer around to make them look good?

    Of course this will pass next year, once everyone and their mother start screaming about job cuts. But in the meantime, why not give the CT GOP some favorable headlines going into the Thanksgiving holiday?

    Sheesh…

  26. [quote post=”2373″]Four straight posters have called you out, TrueBlue. Do you have any specific cites about these untold billions of handouts[/quote]
    Jack,
    On any given day, this might seem like a reasonable post given the history of this thread. However, over time I’ve come to learn it’s not worth the time it takes you to time to the request … it’s not his style. The next move is redirection and name calling …as shown here.

  27. [quote comment=”38771″]Jim Amann strikes again!

    What will Rell, Cafero and McKinney do when the big Dummy is no longer around to make them look good?

    Of course this will pass next year, once everyone and their mother start screaming about job cuts. But in the meantime, why not give the CT GOP some favorable headlines going into the Thanksgiving holiday?

    Sheesh…[/quote]

    But what about the “BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs that were put in place during the Rowland years”?

  28. AndersonScooper

    No Rowland generated tax breaks here.

  29. OK, so, even if true… that’s $70,000. When are you going to get to “BILLIONS in corporate carve-outs”?

  30. >>OK, so, even if true

    It is!
    Give the man a tip of the hat, he got one!

    Things have however taken a nasty turn, couldn’t happen to a more arrogant guy.

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