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Mt. Juliet woman continues fight for 'bottle bill'
Mar 28, 2007 12:00 am
When it comes to the nickel, Marge Davis is always willing to giver her two cents.
"The big motivation is the preposterous amount of litter," Davis remarked from her Mt. Juliet home. "This state is beautiful, but the roads are just big trash piles."
Davis heads up Pride Of Place, an advocacy group calling for a five-cent deposit on beverage containers sold in Tennessee. According to POP, the chance to get a nickel back on every beer can and soda bottle will drive Tennesseans to stop pitching their empties out the window and help keep the state's roads clean of litter. Over the past five years, "the bottle bill" – as Davis's plan is known in the halls of the capitol – has been a mainstay of the legislative agenda, popping up and usually going nowhere.
Last year was one of the better sessions for the bill – it actually made it all the way to a House committee hearing, the last hurdle before getting the chance at an up or down floor vote. The bottle bill got one vote, from Rep. Ben West.
This year, Davis thinks things are going to different.
"There's been a seismic shift in people's attitudes toward this bill this year," Davis said. She recently spent a day in Nashville lobbying for the bottle bill on behalf of the 500 supporters she says makes up the membership of POP. Where legislators have in the past been wary of a bill that would – at its most basic – add a nickel to the price of every Coke, Pepsi or Budweiser purchased by thirsty customers statewide, Davis says the recent return to environmental awareness has opened the door for the bottle bill like never before. The loudest resistance to bottle bills across the nation has always been large beverage producing companies.
They worry that the additional price of a beverage deposit will require them to lower prices to stay competitive – not to mention trim their profits in the process. Davis says that as Americans have become more concerned about recycling and the climactic effects of the country's disposable economy, the beverage industry's concerns about bottle bills have fallen on increasingly deaf ears.
"They're still somewhat supportive of their beverage-producing constituents," Davis said of state lawmakers. "But they're coming around to understanding that people need to change their business practices just a little bit to help improve our environment."
According to POP's research a bottle bill would certainly go a long way toward improving Tennessee's recycling rates, which rank among the lowest in the nation. In states that have beverage container deposit programs (found mostly in the Northeast), recycling rates for aluminum and glass can reach above 80 percent. In Tennessee, the number is 10 percent. Davis says the chance to get cash back for recyclables would raise that number in no time.
"Hawaii came up to a 90 percent [recycling rate] in its first year after passing a bottle bill," Davis said. "I'm sure we would have a similar result here."
The bottle bill is expected to go before a state House subcommittee sometime this week. Though Davis has more sponsors for her legislation than ever before, none of Wilson County's legislative delegation has signed on to the plan. Both of the county's House members, Rep. Susan Lynn (R – Mt. Juliet) and Rep. Stratton Bone (D – Lebanon), said that they are waiting to see if the bill survives in committee before issuing official positions on it.
Though she sees a bright future for the bottle bill, Davis said she's prepared to get disappointed yet again.
"Some people get discouraged; I haven't gotten discouraged yet," she said. "I mean this is the twenty-first century – to use a product only once is like throwing a shirt away after you've worn it for the first time. It just doesn't make any sense."