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Washington lawmakers crack open a fresh bottle deposit bill

caption: Beer and/or soda bottles.
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Beer and/or soda bottles.

State lawmakers in Olympia are once again considering a proposal to establish a bottle deposit program for Washington state.

The basic idea: Pay 10 cents per can/bottle, and return the container to get the money back. In a video promoting the proposal, State Rep. Monica Stonier explained that there is a need to increase recycling rates in Washington state.

RELATED: Where does it all go? The journey of San Juan recycling

“I was really surprised to learn about how all of the things I’ve been telling my children about the recycling process — how important it is to sort and take our stuff down to the curb — how unclean that process is and how we are not really recycling to the highest degree that we think we are in this state. The bottle bill really refines that for beverage containers," Stonier said.

“I want to make sure that what we’re telling our kids about recycling is really the truth, and that is what I think the bill does."

The effort is happening via HB 2144, which is currently going through the committee process.

The main idea is that a 10 cent deposit would be added to the price of every beverage can or bottle in the state. Customers can return those containers to a store (most likely an automated kiosk at a store) to get a voucher for the deposit money.

According to Washington's House Democratic Caucus: “Consumers will be able to return bottles at larger retail locations (determined by store size and sales volume). Those stores will have a bottle return kiosk so it won’t be the store’s staff that actually handle the returns. The kiosk will spit out a voucher that can be redeemed for cash in the checkout line.”

Distributors will be tasked with crafting a system to make it all to work. They'll charge stores 10 cents per container. The stores will pass that fee on to customers. Customers will return the containers to get the money back, and the system will then operate in reverse. The goal is to have the deposit money balance out.

The Washington Food Industry Association opposes the bills. It has placed opposition to the bottle deposit proposal on its list of 2024 legislative priorities. According to a statement on its website:

"WFIA does not support deposit return systems for beverage containers, instead we encourage the Washington State Legislature to look at Washington’s existing structure for funding, waste reduction, recycling and consumer education for creative solutions that will make a difference in reducing plastic waste in our waste streams."

RELATED: WA Legislature passes bill aimed at reducing single-use plastics

This is not the first time lawmakers have attempted to pass a bottle deposit bill. A previous version of a bottle deposit bill was introduced during the 2023 session, but did not make it far.

Washington is the only state on the West Coast without a bottle deposit program. Oregon and California have their own. Other states like Colorado and Maine have their own versions.

2/5/2024: This post previously stated that SB 5154 was part of the bottle deposit proposal. According to a spokesperson with the House Democrats, SB 5154 and HB 1131 are previous versions of the current bill and will not be moving forward. This post has also been updated with a comment from the House Democratic Caucus about how vouchers will work.

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