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Recycling deposit plan worries industries

A 10-cent deposit program for beverage containers could increase recycling in the state, but the proposal has industry groups worried — especially for border cities like Red Wing.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency revealed a cost-benefit analysis report for a deposit program at a meeting Jan. 14.

More than a dozen organizations have since commented on the plan, including the Minnesota Grocers Association and Minnesota Beverage Association. The groups warn of increased taxpayer costs and lost jobs should lawmakers move ahead with the program.

“Higher costs to consumers, damage to current recycling infrastructure and significant border issues in relation to fraud and competitive disadvantages are just a few for the foreseeable consequences a bottle deposit program will create in Minnesota,” wrote Grocers Association President Jamie Pfuhl in a letter to the MPCA.


Based on analysis of deposit programs in other states, the cost-benefit report estimates grocery stores would lose around 214 jobs to neighboring states under the plan.

The system works by charging 10 cents for each beverage container purchased up to 1 gallon, including plastic bottles, cans and glass containers. To get the 10 cents back, consumers would have to return containers to designated redemption centers.

But problems could arise along the state’s borders, where people would be able to purchase beverages in Wisconsin or the Dakotas and collect refunds in Minnesota without paying a deposit.

The Minnesota Beverage Association says the state’s report underestimates the potential for fraud, due in part to the high percentage of Minnesota’s population living in border counties.

The MPCA was tasked with developing a proposal for a deposit program during the last legislative session, with the goal of increasing the recycling rate statewide to 80 percent.

The cost-benefit report estimates the state’s current beverage container recycling rate at around 45 percent. A deposit system would increase that to as high as 88 percent, the report states.

The program would require a minimum of one redemption center in counties with a population up to 15,000, with more centers for every additional 15,000 people or fraction thereof.

Goodhue County, with a population estimated at just over 46,000, would need four redemption centers.

Grocery and convenience stores also could collect bottles, but participation would be voluntary.

It would cost around $179 million annually to run the added infrastructure, the report continues. The bulk of the costs would be covered by selling materials to recycling markets and the balance left over by people continuing to dispose of containers instead of collecting their refund.

The remaining $29 million shortfall would be covered by beverage distributors, something the Minnesota Beverage Association said will lead to higher prices for consumers.

The issue is expected to be taken up by the Legislature later this year.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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