Items are sorted for recycling inside the Waste Management Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Items are sorted for recycling inside the Waste Management Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

10 cents per bottle: Recycling companies have mixed views on proposal

A new bill cosponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, could give Washingtonians refunds for glass and plastic, to boost recycling.

OLYMPIA — In another effort to boost recycling in Washington, a group of state legislators is advocating for a bill that would create a new system for recycling bottles and cans.

House Bill 2144 would establish a deposit return system for plastic and glass bottles, as well as aluminum cans. Customers would pay a 10-cent bottle deposit, upon purchasing a bottled or canned beverage. Once the containers are empty, customers could bring them to drop-off locations at grocery stores and other retailers to receive a refund slip. For each bottle returned, customers would get 10 cents.

“I think there’s always some questions and concerns about putting glass in curbside recycling,” said Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, a cosponsor of the legislation.

Residents in Peterson’s 21st Legislative District, encompassing neighborhoods in Edmonds, Everett, Lynnwood and Mukilteo, are a “strong environmental constituency,” he said. He believes people will feel relieved using a deposit return system, knowing their bottles are more likely to become bottles again.

But representatives of waste management facilities said the bill would undermine curbside recycling services and inconvenience residents.

“We would still be running trucks and picking up materials,” said Brad Lovaas, executive director of the Washington Refuse and Recycling Association. “But the materials we’ll be picking up will be less valuable.”

Washington waste management companies profit from plastic bottles and aluminum cans, as manufacturers value these materials highly, Lovaas said.

Curbside recycling services will suffer financially, he said, especially after investing in advanced recycling technology, as Waste Management recently did with the Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville.

Through HB 2144, beverage distributors must form a new organization and register with the state Department of Ecology to operate the deposit return system. The organization in charge will need to pay $15 million annually to the state Department of Commerce for the first five years of the program.

Upon request, the Department of Commerce will distribute payments to help local governments and waste management companies “offset revenue losses,”according to the bill report. But Lovaas is skeptical the proposal will aid curbside recycling services longterm.

Washington solid waste facilities and manufacturers recycle 30% of plastic, glass and aluminum containers they receive, according to a 2021 report by Eunomia Research and Consulting and the Ball Corporation.

“The curbside system wasn’t built for glass,” said Scott DeFife, president of the Glass Packaging Institute — a trade association that represents the North American glass container industry.

In many Washington cities, solid waste companies offer single-stream recycling, meaning residents place all recyclable materials in a single bin that are later sorted by a facility. Without advanced sorting technology, some recycling facilities inevitably mix glass materials with other items, DeFife said.

Glass contaminated with other materials is not as valuable to manufacturers as pure glass.

HB 2144 would prevent contamination by establishing a “closed loop” recycling system, always keeping plastic, glass and aluminum containers separate from other recyclables.

Ten states have recycling refund programs and eight of them successfully recycle over 50% of plastic, glass and aluminum containers.

What kinds of glass can you recycle in Snohomish County?

Snohomish County residents can put certain types of glass in their curbside recycling bins.

WM, Republic Services and Rubatino Refuse Removal accept glass bottles and jars, but don’t take mirrors, windows or ceramic dishes.

Before putting a glass item in the recycling bin, people should consider the number of times they have used the item, said Karissa Miller, public education and outreach manager for WM.

She tells customers single-use items, like wine and beer bottles, are typically recyclable, while items like plates and bowls belong in the garbage when people want to dispose them.

Waste collection companies don’t accept multiple-use glass items because they have different melting points than single-use materials, Miller said. Glass from mirrors, windows and dishes would contaminate the recycling process, as crushed bottles and jars are melted and molded into new products.

WM’s Cascade Recycling Center has a machine with multiple steel shafts that breaks glass into 2-inch pieces. These pieces then fall onto another conveyor belt, along with other small, non-recyclable items. A cyclone air system suctions out the contaminants before workers load up trucks with the glass material.

From there, the glass is sent to a local third-party facility that uses machinery to separate green, brown and clear glass pieces, Miller said. Glass container manufacturers receive these sorted products and turn them into new bottles and jars.

What questions do you have about recycling? Email Ta’Leah Van Sistine at the address below.

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

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