Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tennessee Bottle Bill and Keep Knoxville Beautiful

Here is my letter to the Officers and Directors of Keep Knoxville Beautiful regarding their decision to not support the proposed Tennessee Bottle Bill. It will explain the situation, but if you want more information about this organization you can go to Keep Knoxville Beautiful. For more information about the Tennessee Bottle Bill please go to TNBottleBill.Org. Please be sure that you are at the correct site. For even more information about Keep Knoxville Beautiful check out this page: TNBottleBillFAQs Pay particular attention to the questions: "Keep Tennessee Beautiful is opposed to bottle bills?" and "Why would Keep Tennessee Beautiful not want a bottle bill?"

Officers and Directors
Keep Knoxville Beautiful
"Promoting a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community"

Dear Officers and Directors,

About a week ago I wrote to your organization regarding my disappointment in your decision to not support the proposed Tennessee Bottle Bill. Below is the response I received from Mr. Tom Salzer, your Executive Director and my reply to him.

I would also direct your attention to and, in particular, the contention that, and are all being run by your Executive Director. I am curious to learn from anyone in your organization if he has been authorized by the board of Keep Knoxville Beautiful to organize and run this activity or if he is acting on his own.

Thank you for your time.


Eric Durland

Tom's letter to me:

Tom Salter wrote:
We received your web form comments on our board's position on the Tennessee bottle bill.

Sorry I didn't reply sooner but since you didn't put in your email address it took me a few minutes to find it.

I know you are committed to passing a bottle bill in Maryland and wish you well. Our board spent a lot of time looking at this issue and they got past the data provide by the Container Reycling Institute and started looking at litter and solid waste data collected by other groups. We certainly did not approach this in a flippant or casual way. This is very serious business. My board believes there is a cost to the run the program from handling fees paid on all containers and from deposits paid that are never refunded. They looked at this cost relative to the amount of litter in roadside litter - about 7.8% according to waste industry experts (not the Container Recycling Institute). They also looked at the percentage of bottles and cans in the total waste stream - about 5% according to the EPA. Nobody disagrees that the program has a huge impact on recycling bottles and cans but that is all it does. My board is committed to increasing the rates of recycling of all types of material. One of their favorite examples is to look at a pickle jar, a beer bottle and a wine bottle side by side. They are all valuable clear glass to a recycler, but under the TN bottle bill only the beer bottle is valued. This is the type of issue that is very problematic for the TN bottle bill and the people who take the time to look at its nuances. Obviously the bill promoters have to make choices and they have to go with something. We don't believe it will have the impact on litter or overall recycling rates implied by bill promoters. For the record, during this fiscal year we have received one $500 contribution from a beer company and one $1,000 contribution from a soft drink company. Our total budget is about $100,000 a year. This is about 1.5% of our budget. I wish you the best in pusuing your issues in Maryland.

Tom Salter
Executive Director
Keep Knoxville Beautiful
Mail: P.O. Box 385, Knoxville, TN 37901
Street: 100 S. Gay Street, Suite
Phone: 865-521-6957


Here is my reply:

Mr. Tom Salter
Executive Director
Keep Knoxville Beautiful
"Promoting a Cleaner, Greener, More Beautiful Community"

Dear Mr. Salter,

Thank you for your reply. While I understand your arguments, I strongly disagree with your argument.

You say the board "got past" the data provided by the Container Recycling Institute ( It sounds to me like you ignored their data. Your board then looked at litter and solid waste information from "other groups." Could you forward the information from the other groups to me so I can see what other information your board used to reach the conclusion you reached? Even so, I would think that proper analysis would include a range of statistics, not just picking the most favorable statistics that will bolster the argument that a bottle bill will cost too much, and will not reduce enough litter.

COST: Of course there is a cost to run the program. I don't think anyone is arguing that there is no cost to a Bottle Deposit Bill. The handling fee is just that: a fee to keep the containers from ending up filling landfills, clogging creeks, and cluttering roadsides. Regarding the deposits that are not refunded, this is only a cost for people that do not redeem them, and instead toss them in the garbage or out the window. This means that the people that choose to not return the bottles are paying the costs associated with that choice. This as an opportunity cost for any enterprising person or child to be incentivized to pick up litter that people choose to throw on the ground.

BEVERAGE CONTAINER WASTE: Now let's talk about 5% of waste being beverage containers. You are talking about 5% of waste by volume, which may seem small. The thing is that this 5% represents a huge amount of wasted resources. Particularly since most of the heavy waste that ends up in landfills are yard waste. If we were to capture this waste with a National Bottle Bill (like Senator Jim Jeffords has proposed and is currently being proposed in Tennessee) and recycle it we are talking about the equivalent of over 30 million barrels of oil saved just from recycling aluminum cans. Returned and recycled plastic would represent at least another 7 million barrels of oil saved per year. And, again, what is the problem with reducing the amount of waste by 5%? How does your board justify not reducing waste by any percentage within the idea of "promoting a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community" which is your mission statement?

BEVERAGE CONTAINER LITTER: You say that only 7.8% of litter is beverage containers. I would really appreciate seeing this study since Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s own studies from cleanups in Knox County, done in conjunction with the Tennessee Izaak Walton League, show that 26.8% of litter was beverage containers. But even if the 7.8% number is the correct number and if a Bottle Bill only captured half of total beverage container litter, this bill would still reduce overall litter by 3.9%. How does reducing litter by even 3.9% not fit into "Promoting a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community"? I think that the 7.8% number for percent of litter being beverage bottles is low based on many other studies, especially those done by Keep Knoxville Beautiful and the Tennessee Izaak Walton League and, frankly, just looking at roadsides around the country. Other states' and government studies (available at show bottles constituting 30% of litter, just like your studies have shown. The thing is that either way, whether beverage containers represent 7.8% or 30-40% like many other studies show, a Bottle Bill still represents a big step forward in reducing the amount of litter. Once again I ask, how does your contention that only 7.8% of litter on roadsides is from beverage containers fit your organization’s mission to “Promote a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community”?

I'm glad to see that you agree that "nobody disagrees that the program has a huge impact on recycling bottles and cans." You then go on to say that "your board is interested in increasing the (recycling) rates of all types of material". Great! That should be everyone's goal, and targeting one product at a time is a viable option. It makes further sense to start this reduction effort with the products that are the least costly and most beneficial to capture. Start here, and then Keep Knoxville Beautiful can target wine bottles and pickle jars. Step by step, you will, in fact, "promote a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community".

You then say that, "We don't believe it will have the impact on litter or overall recycling rates implied by bill promoters." One question is “Why not?” And even so, if the bill were to only work half as well as the promoters say—even if it only accomplishes what you do believe it will accomplish—it will still reduce litter, reduce waste, and most importantly lead the way to communities in Knoxville thinking, living, and promoting a cleaner, greener, more beautiful Knoxville. In sum, the bottle bill makes sense.

I'm glad to see that only 1.5% of your money comes from the bottling industry. None of us would like to see a common sense bill get voted down as a result of lobbying by the bottling industry. We would all like to see this bill judged on its merits, and not on its industry ties.

While I am living in Maryland right now and working towards a Maryland Bottle Bill such as the bottle bill that is currently under consideration in Tennessee, I would like to let you know my connections to the State of Tennessee. My father grew up in Jefferson City and my grandfather and grandmother are both buried there. I have also spent a lot of time hiking and kayaking in Tennessee, and my wife attended college in Nashville, and spent four years teaching environmental education there. While I might not have any influence in your fair state, I would still like to see your legislature, governor, and citizens benefit from a Bottle Bill, because it really will "promote a cleaner, greener, more beautiful community."


Eric Durland
Silver Spring, Maryland


At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Melvin Purvis said...

Pickle jar??? Along all of the Tennessee roads and highways that I have walked (or ran) by, or the rivers or lakes that I have been floating across the Volunteer State, I have yet to see my first littered "pickle jar"...all while beer bottles, soda cans, and plastic beverage bottles seemingly grow like wildflowers.

What Slater doesn't mention is that he pulls down $37,500 per yearwith Keep Knoxville Beautiful (well in 2004 anyway - before the Tennessee Bottle Bill Project ramped up to speed)...

You might want to also keep in mind that the state-ran Clean Tennessee (predecessor to the Keep Tennessee Beautiful Council)was created by the 1989 executive order of Tennessee Governor (and beer distributor) Ned Ray McWherter.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Eric Durland said...


Thanks for the great information. I will write something more about Mr. Slater soon. Please let me know if you have any references that would be helpful.


At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Jeff W said...


Pardon my tardiness in posting a comment here as I happen to come across your blog while searching for some sort of info on whether there is some sort of bottle/cans recycle program here in Tennessee.

I arrived here from Vancouver, Canada about 1.5 yrs ago and ever since have accumulated enough bottles (mostly water bottles and juice) to fill 7 large garbage bag-fulls taking up space on my kitchen floor.

I thought it is high time I hunker down and search for a recyclng depot that will accept my bottles. Back from where I came from, we have a recycling program where every garbage day, a recycling truck would make its round right after the garbage truck to pickup any household magazines/newspapers, non-refundable bottles/cans, plastics/cardboards, etc. There is a bottle/can deposit whereby you get your money back if you return them at designated recycling depot areas littered throughout greater Vancouver. It's second nature to me to not throw any of the plastics/cans/etc away as it's usually economically wasteful.

So having arrived in Tennessee, it comes as a surprise that I have to ask high and low for some sort of recycling depot! Of the everyone I've asked, all of them were nonchalant about it and most said that they don't bother and simply throw the bottles/cans into the garbage.

Some have suggested that if I call so and so, they will come and pick the bottles up for you for a fee! I find it preposterous that in this day and age, there are such flippant attitudes and selfish ignorance!

In the meantime, I will continue to see if I can properly dispose of my 7 large bag-fulls of bottles and continue on my merry way in hopes of finding a good home for them!

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous jeff w said...

By the way, if you wish to contact me, you can email to rx.jeff AT the gmail account.

jeff w


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