By Tom Mehuron
This letter is written in protest to the statements issued in the March 11, 2021, of The Valley Reporter by Reps. Maxine Grad and Kari Dolan on the proposed House bill 175 addressing Vermont’s bottle bill. First, this proposal is not modernizing this bill. It is expanding the scope of an antiquated, outlived bill.
Vermont’s original bottle bill was enacted almost 50 years ago as an anti-littering bill. Back then, there were no other large-scale recycling concerns so the bill was effective both from an anti-littering and recycling standpoint. It was never really good for most of the businesses that had to take these containers back and store them in their business. They took up a large amount of space, introduced in many incidences disgusting containers into an environment where most businesses are trying to produce clean, fresh foods.
In 2021, Vermont has many avenues for recycling. There are businesses that specialize it in and have the equipment and know how to deal with it. That is where the concentration of effort should be growing to make recycling better. This would be true modernization, not the “putting lipstick on a pig” approach that the Vermont House is using here.
I sat in a Vermont House summer study committee concerning this same issue about 20 years ago in Montpelier. The committee consisted of legislators, retailers, solid waste district managers and trash haulers. Basically, the retailers were against the burden that an expanded bill would put on them. The trash haulers wanted the extra tonnage. The solid waste managers wanted the raw materials. After weeks for talk and testimony, the committee’s vote was against expansion of the bill.
And 20 years later, our representatives are still trying to drive this bad legislation down our throats.
I think Mehuron’s was the last hold out on actually taking redeemables in store and paying out cash for them. I held onto this policy because I believed in the original bill. But, I held out too long. We moved to a reverse vending machine a few years back to deal with redeemables. It is a system fraught with problems as each different type of beverage has to be registered with the machine’s manufacturer and it is impractical to keep up with all the new beverages. But, it keeps that trash (yes, it may be recycling but it is still trash) out of the building where we are making clean, delicious foods. In spite of the fact that we cannot keep up with all the updates necessary to accommodate all of the containers we sell as evidenced by some angry calls about the efficiency of the machine, I could not be happier. I wish we had done it years earlier.
Do you remember the bottle redemption business that operated for short period of time a few years back? Yeah, it did not last long as it is not profitable. Even if you doubled the handling fees. Maybe in the Northeast Kingdom or other remote towns where you can still get people to work for Vermont’s minimum wage but certainly not here in the Mad River Valley.
Years back, I was not a fan of mandated recycling. But businesses have faced that scrutiny for quite a while now and I have a true appreciation of how much material this has kept out of our dumpsters as we recycle carboard, glass, metal, plastics and food scraps.
If our legislators were really forward thinking and looking out for the public good, they would be proposing legislation that would be good for all Vermonters, not just for the few “makes us feel good” proponents of bills like H.175. This is bad legislation. Tell you representatives just that.
Mehuron lives in Waitsfield and is the proprietor of Mehuron’s Supermarket.