Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bottle Deposit Law Considered by TN Legislature

A Republican legislator from East Tennessee (Russell Johnson) has introduced legislation requiring a five cent deposit on disposable beverage containers (e.g. beer bottles, soft drink cans). This procedure is already used in eleven states and some cities. The legislator hopes to reduce litter and provide at least a small amount of funding for preschool and "community service" programs.

I have some experience with bottle deposit laws from my graduate school days at the University of Missouri at Columbia. There are both positives and negatives to the bottle deposit law: positives include an excellent use of government to reduce a negative externality (litter) by increasing personal cost by an amount which approaches societial cost of the litter; more employment at stores and recycling centers and a way for low-income citizens to supplement their income. Negatives include considerable administrative inconvenience for retail store owners; competitive disadvantage for stores in cities near states without a bottle deposits law (in Tennessee--Clarksville, Chattanooga and Memphis would be major examples) and an influx of homeless people from surrounding states may occur (based on my anecdotal experience from Columbia, MO). An ideal solution--put it to a referendum and let the citizens of Tennessee vote on the legislation.


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