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The many benefits from bottle recycling

“Bottles empty, Raise the walls” Burkhard Strassmann titled his report on the work of ECO-TEC, a construction firm building homes in rural areas in Honduras, Columbia, India and other developing countries.
The principal building material, after foundations have been poured are PET bottles filled with sifted dirt and sand.
Anchored in mortar and local clay and tied with “old nylon rope or barbed wire from the waste dump,” stacked rows of the bottles make the round corner posts and walls of new homes.
Tin roofed and brightly painted for a surprisingly modernistic appearance, these can be constructed at cost as low as $3,000.
Local people, apprenticeship-trained through the firm are employed and those light plastic containers used, which, in developing countries as in the industrialized world are often found littering the land, streams and beaches, by the millions.
Tennessee legislators on the House State Government Subcommittee learned about many similar benefits of recycling-use of beverage containers. In testimony on March 9, as reported by Marge Davis, they heard from the chief executive of Marglen Industries.
Employing more than 900, this company turns PET plastic bottles into carpet fiber and resins to make new containers.
These are “the lifeblood” of his industry. Recycling rates in the southeast being very low (less than 10 percent), Marglen must bring in empty bottles from other countries, even as far away as Canada and South America to keep the factory going and workers employed.
Legislators heard from the manager of Jonesborough’s Trailblazer Market, which would become a container redemption center; from a farmer whose $2,000 tractor tire was ruined by a glass bottle; and from an employment center where adults with disabilities would gain substantial earnings through operating a container recycling center.
These and other testimonials that day spoke to the many advantages of beverage-container deposit systems.
In states where these have been implemented, recycling rates are as high as 90 percent.
The people of Tennessee support a “bottle bill” (by poll margins exceeding 80 percent), as do the County Mayors Association, countless farmers, the environmental community and many other stakeholders.
A bottle bill is before our Legislature, again, as Tennessee Beverage Container Recycling Act (HB3429, SB3469).
It would place a 5-cent deposit on glass, plastic or aluminum/bimetal beverage containers, refunded via independent, self-supporting redemption centers.
The bill would continue the State’s existing litter programs while creating thousands of new jobs and holding down future beverage prices.
It would help promote the “Pride of Place” envisioned by its promoters and legislative sponsors which would go a long way toward keeping our roads clean and towns and scenery more attractive to residents, visitors and tourists.
Most importantly, by recycling the containers’ raw materials back into new products, it would boost the green industries and jobs that move economies closer to sustainability.
The bill’s fate to be decided this week, one hopes that the legislators will heed the public’s wishes for container recycling in Tennessee.