By John Haughey
The Center Square
August 10, 2019
State Sen. Kevin Rader has again submitted his proposed “Florida Beverage Container Deposit Act” seeking to make Florida the nation’s 11th state to impose a refundable tax on recyclable cans and bottles beginning in 2021.
Rader, D-Boca Raton, and fellow South Florida Democrat, Rep. Richard Stark of Weston, sponsored similar legislation last year in both chambers but neither gained traction in committees.
The 2019 bill would have required consumers to pay a 20- to 30-cent tax – which would be the highest in the nation – on glass, aluminum, steel, “bimetal,” or plastic, including polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, “and all other plastic types and grades” beverage containers holding between 6 fluid ounces and 1 gallon.
Rader’s 2020 version would reduce that tax to 5 cents for each beverage container between 6-25 fluid ounces and 10 cents for each container between 25 fluid ounces and 1 gallon.
Consumers can get that upfront tax back when they bring the empty containers back to grocery stores and “redemption” centers.
Recyclers would get “a handling fee in an amount equal to at least 20 percent” of the deposit tax.
According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), recycling of glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans is significantly higher in states that require consumers to pay a deposit for packaging – essentially, an upfront refundable tax – that they can get back when they bring the containers to recycling sites.
In some of those states, according to the institute, “recycling rates are twice as high as those without these laws.”
For example, according to CRI, after imposing a 10-cent deposit in 2000, Michigan saw a 95 percent return rate of bottles and cans. In 2008, the state returned over $407 million in deposits.
Rader’s proposed Senate Bill 50 seeks to provide that “financial incentive” to reduce litter and encourage Floridians to recycle.
“Roadside litter presents an obstacle to promoting tourism,” the state’s largest industry, and “reducing the amount of roadside litter improves the quality of life for the residents of this state,” the bill states.
In 2008, the Florida Legislature enacted HB 7135, which established a statewide recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Solid Waste Management, in 2017 more than 23 million tons of materials, not only cans and bottles, were recycled for an estimated recycling rate of 52 percent.
The bill, which would go into effect on July 1, 2021, spells out regulations for “reverse vending machines,” requirements for beverage distributors, necessary certifications for recyclers operating “redemption centers” and would mandate that “each deposit beverage container sold or offered for sale in this state must be clearly identified by a stamp, label, or other mark securely affixed to or printed on the deposit beverage container which bears the word ‘Florida’ or the letters ‘FL.’”
SB 50 also stipulates that any “person, dealer, distributor, or redemption center” that anyone who tries to claim a tax refund for 24 bottles or cans that they “know, or has reason to know, were not originally sold in this state” could be subject to “a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a civil penalty of $100.”
The bill also imposes state preemption by prohibiting municipalities from creating their own recycling requirements and fees.
As with the 2019 version and other attempts in the past, the Florida Beverage Container Deposit Act is unlikely to be adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Last year’s bill was opposed by a range of businesses, particularly beverage distributors, who claim the bill would impose time-consuming and costly regulations on their industry and would be under to consumers who recycle.
SB 50 is the sixth bill Rader has pre-filed for the 2020 legislative session, including SB 40, a measure seeking to ban carryout plastic bags and straws, and SB 112, a proposal for a “relocation study” to move the state capital from Tallahassee to a more “centralized” city.
Rader’s six bills are among 52 prospective Senate bills and eight House bills that have been pre-filed since Aug. 1 for the 2020 session, which convenes Jan. 14 with preliminary committee reviews beginning in September.