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Litter could be reduced with bottle bill

Plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans are approximately two and half times more frequently littered in Virginia (a state without a bottle bill) than in states with bottle bills, according to a new report by Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood University.

“We compared litter data from states with bottle bills to states without bottle bills,” explained Katie Register, executive director of Clean Virginia Waterways and author of the report. Bottle bills require that customers pay a deposit when they purchase a beverage, then return the empty bottle or can to redeem the deposits at the point of purchase or redemption center. “In Virginia, bottles and cans accounted for nearly 22% of all litter recorded by volunteers in 2019. But in states with container deposit bills, bottles and cans accounted for less than 9%, on average, of the total debris recorded,” Register said.

The report “Littered Bottles and Cans: Higher in Virginia Than in States with Bottle Bills” states that plastic bottles accounted for 11.5% of all the litter recorded in 2019 by volunteers who participated in the annual International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia which is organized by Clean Virginia Waterways. In states with bottle bills, plastic bottles account for smaller percentages: from 2% to 8.3%. Aluminum cans were also more frequently found littered in Virginia, accounting for 6.7% of all litter. In states with bottle bills — including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Oregon — beverage cans accounted for 2.5% of all litter according to the new report.

“I am not surprised about this significant difference in littering,” Mark Swingle, chief of research and conservation at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. “We have organized many litter clean up events during which our volunteers collect data about the litter they find. Bottles, cans, and other beverage-related items — like straws — are always in our ‘Top 10’ list,” he explained.