A Study Determining if Mandatory Beverage Container Deposit Laws Are Effective Legislation
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The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of mandatory beverage container deposit laws that have been implemented in nine states and to determine what effect they are having on society. It discusses the arguments on both sides of the bottle bill issue and uses empirical data to determine if the legislation is a positive or negative force. In a perfect system the economy would account for all the externalities involved in using one-way containers. All beverage containers would have all the additional energy consumption and environmental damage built into their final cost so that consumers could decide if the increased convenience was worth the price they charged. That would leave the market to decide if the new legislation was effective. Since the current pricing system is not perfect, it is difficult to use that analysis to determine the effectiveness of the deposit laws. The use of disposable beverage containers involves some costs that are not entirely borne by the users. Discarded bottles and cans are eyesores until taxpayers pay to have them picked up. Even those cans that are thrown away are placed in taxpayer supported public landfills. Because the exact dollar figures for these costs are hard to quantify and are not passed on the consumer, other factors must be examined in determining the laws' effectiveness. The battle lines for the issue of deposit legislation have been clearly drawn, with environmental groups and local governments in favor of the laws and the beer and soft drink industry against any type of container legislation. The proponents argue that bottle bills lead to a reduction in litter and solid waste, savings in energy used by the industry, and net increases in employment, while the opponents point out that deposit laws increase prices and costs at all levels of production, decrease sales, and increase both consumer and producer inconvenience in trying to deal with the returned containers. This paper discusses each of the arguments presented by both sides of the issue, the proponents and opponents. First, the issues are discussed in a general manner, stating the overall arguments. The paper then goes into more detail, focusing on the empirical data that has been collected by both sides. The data is used to determine what overall effect the deposit laws have had and which side, the opponents or the proponents, win the argument.