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April 19, 2024

CT bottle returns up 15%; Nip ban bill won’t pass this session

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER The bottle redemption center at the Stop & Shop on New Park Avenue in Hartford was busy recently. The number of containers that can be redeemed at one time at grocery stores is limited to 240 by state law.

Can and bottle recycling is up 15% in Connecticut, following a change in state law that gave consumers an added incentive to return their empties to a redemption center, grocery store or other qualified businesses.

On Jan. 1, the state increased its 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans to 10 cents. The change in law, originally passed by the legislature in 2021, also expanded the types of containers eligible for redemption to include non-carbonated beverages, hard ciders and malt-based hard seltzers.

Since the higher deposit went into effect, the bottle return rate in Connecticut has increased from about 50% to 65%, according to state Rep. Joe Gresko (D-Stratford).

State Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said he thinks the state could eventually exceed a 70% bottle and can return rate, and State Rep. Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford) said adding more redemption centers would go a long way toward that goal.

More than a dozen redemption centers are under development, according to one estimate, which would nearly double the industry’s capacity — there are 16 bulk redemption centers currently licensed to operate in the state.

Nip ban

Related to recycling, a bill that would allow municipalities to ban the sale of nips won't move forward this session, legislative leaders said Thursday.

House Bill 5215 would have allowed Connecticut towns and cities to prohibit the sale of nips in their municipalities after hosting a public hearing, but Democratic leadership indicated the proposal wouldn’t be getting a vote this session.

“We would have to go through a robust changing of liquor laws,” Gresko said. “And now you're going down a slope of, well, one municipality does it, the other one doesn't do it. I know it stood the test of court challenges in Massachusetts, but here, we’ve got to do it in more incremental steps.”

And nips are only growing in popularity. 

Gresko said the state’s “nickel-per-nip” program, which reimburses towns and cities 5 cents for the sale of each 50 milliliter container of alcohol sold in their community, generated a record amount of money during the last six months. That money goes out to municipalities twice a year in April and October.

Ritter said he hopes to see some sort of processing machines created to recycle nips so they can be collected and returned like other beverage containers. Gresko told his colleague development of that technology is in the works.

“You need to find a way to recycle these things, I mean that's the issue,” Ritter said.

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