CONNECTICUT’S BOTTLED WATER DEPOSIT FEE WILL HURT CONSUMERS, JEAPORDIZE BUSINESSES, AND IMPACT NEGATIVELY ON STateWIDE CURBSIDE RECYCLING EFFORTS

March 03, 2009

“Implementation Deadline is Impossible to Meet”

ALEXANDRIA, VA, -- Connecticut’s legislature passed the state’s budget bill on February 25, 2009, which included expansion of the state’s existing bottle deposit law to include bottled, flavored, and enhanced waters and other beverages labeled as water. The expansion to water becomes effective on April 1, 2009.
The new law requires bottled water in glass or plastic containers of 3 liters (approximately 100 ounces) or less to be labeled with “CT 5¢” and, starting April 1, 2009, deposits must be collected and refunded by dealers. The law provides that retail inventory prior to April 1, 2009, is exempt from the new deposit fee.
“Under this bill, the bottled water industry has less than four weeks to design and implement an entirely new system of labeling for their products,” according to Tom Lauria, Vice President of Communications, at the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). “The unreasonable implementation deadline is impossible to meet.  Companies cannot produce and distribute product with new labels onto store shelves in just a few short weeks. This timeline disregards the realities of the marketplace, including bottled water products that have already been produced and are awaiting delivery to retailers.”   IBWA notes the original draft of the statute gave businesses a more realistic 18 months to comply, and we urge Governor Jodi Rell and the Legislature to revisit this issue and permit a more pragmatic approach in implementing the new law.

A Major Setback for Curbside Recycling

By enacting this bill, the Legislature has created a disincentive for curbside recycling efforts in Connecticut.  The new deposit will give consumers a financial incentive not to put their empty bottles into curbside recycle bins. Instead they will now haul a larger percentage of their own trash back to the store instead of relying on the convenience, ease and simplicity of curbside recycling programs.  Plus, they are forced to pay more upfront at the point of purchase.  While a refund is possible, it requires far more effort on the part of busy consumers.
Distributors and/or manufacturers are responsible for picking up empty containers from retailers and paying the retailer a 2¢ per container handling fee, an added expense for Connecticut businesses during these recessionary economic times.  Under the law, any unclaimed bottle deposits are paid to the state. Therefore,  Connecticut only makes money if consumers fail to return their containers to retailers. The Connecticut budget anticipates additional revenue of $3.8 million for this fiscal year and $17.1 million in FY 2010 in revenue from the unclaimed deposits as a result of expansion and the capture of escheats (unclaimed deposits) by the state. Raising revenue was the paramount issue in imposing bottle deposit fees to water.
“At a time when jobs are precious and disposable income is limited for many consumers, it is not productive for the state of Connecticut to impose severe, arbitrary timelines on businesses,” said Tom Lauria. “As anyone who knows marketing and distribution cycles will tell you, putting re-labeled product in the pipeline demands both time and money.  Both are in short supply as Connecticut business struggle to comply.” 
 

On background:  Bottled Water in Connecticut

Bottled water is a packaged food product, regulated comprehensively by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as by the state of Connecticut. Bottled water has grown in popularity because of its consistent quality, taste and convenience and is now a major employer in the state.  Many people choose bottled water over other bottled beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol or other ingredients consumers may wish to avoid or moderate.  When an extra deposit fee is levied on a healthy beverage such as bottled water, the additional cost could cause consumers to purchase other, less healthful alternatives. Connecticut residents are far better off if they can choose the healthy benefits of bottled water without any added costs and measures.

All bottled water containers are 100% recyclable. The bottled water industry, like many others in the food and beverage industry, has taken actions to reduce its environmental footprint through the use of ever lighter weight packaging and direct support and involvement in recycling educational and advocacy programs.  Bottled water is one of thousands of packaged foods and beverages—not to mention other consumer products--used by consumers every day.  Bottled water containers are fully recyclable and should be properly recycled through consumer-friendly recycling systems Connecticut already has in place.  Any actions to reduce the environmental impact of packaging must focus on all consumer goods and not target merely beverages.