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Cleaner, greener state

Cleaner, greener state
Scenic Tennessee’s Marge Davis believes that a cleaner, greener Tennessee may be just around the next bend.
On Oct. 6, Davis will set off on an 800-mile bicycle ride to spread the word about “Pride of Place,” a comprehensive litter and recycling plan made possible by a 5-cent deposit on glass, plastic and aluminum beverage containers.
Legislation creating a container deposit (SB 1408, HB 1829) was introduced last spring by Sen. Doug Jackson of Dickson and Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory. Twelve additional cosponsors from both parties have since signed on, and Davis believes more will be added by the time the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
Other states have long used container deposits as an incentive to recycle, said Davis, including Iowa, Maine, Vermont, Oregon and Michigan. Not only do these states tend to have the highest recycling rates in the country, she noted; they also have some of the cleanest roads.
Tennessee’s legislation combines the best features of these existing “bottle bills” while addressing concerns raised by business. For instance, under Tennessee’s bill, empty bottles and cans will not be returned to grocery stores or convenience markets. Instead, consumers will take their empties to any of hundreds of small, independent, mostly mom-and-pop “redemption centers” that will be conveniently located throughout the state.
Once redeemed, the containers will be picked up not by the beverage distributors but by the recyclers, who will then sell the scrap for use in everything from fiberglass to carpets to new beverage containers (all of which are produced in Tennessee). The beverage distributors pay a 3-cent-per-container handling fee to fund the program, compensate the redemption centers and make sure that nearly 4 billion bottles and cans each year are returned to the manufacturing stream.
In addition to saving raw materials, landfill space and energy, the bill will double funding for Tennessee’s existing litter-control and education program, using some of the roughly 15 percent of deposits that will not be redeemed. It will eliminate the existing “litter taxes” on beer and soft drinks. It will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for schools, charities and community causes via “bottle drives” and donation bins. And it will inspire a host of new products and redemption technologies, such as high-speed electronic sorting machines, and “drop-and-go” redemption kiosks (located outside large grocery stores) that allow customers to drop off their empties, 24 hours a day, in about 8 seconds.
Most Tennesseans have absolutely no idea what a modern bottle bill looks like, said Davis, and that’s why she decided it was time to get on her bike and hand-deliver the information to citizen groups, legislators and local officials, as well as to individuals, businesses, nonprofits and city/county governments interested in operating a redemption center. She’ll share fact sheets and other handouts, as well as a DVD that shows how a similar bill works—to great effect, and with enormous public support—in Maine.
The first leg of the tour starts Saturday, Oct. 6, with a public rally from 9-10 a.m. at Nashville’s Legislative Plaza. Following remarks by legislative sponsors (invited) and others, Davis will head west via highways 70S and 70, with overnight stops in Dickson, Camden, Jackson, Stanton and Memphis; then north through Covington, Dyersburg and Tiptonville via highways 51 and 22; then east through Martin, Paris, Dover and Clarksville via highways 22, 54 and 79.
The second leg of the tour starts Saturday, October 20, at 10 a.m., following a rally at Murfreesboro’s Civic Plaza at 9 a.m. The route heads southeast through Manchester, Tracy City and into Chattanooga via Highway 41; then northeast through Cleveland, Athens, Loudon and Knoxville via Highway 11; and finally east via Highway 11E through Morristown, Greeneville, Johnson City and Bristol, where the tour concludes on October 31.
Although it is not meant to be a group ride, Davis welcomes fellow cyclists for segments of the tour, especially as she rides out of Nashville and Murfreesboro. Supporters can also join her when she stops to do separated litter pickups as part of Scenic Tennessee’s ongoing litter-composition survey. (So far, she said, the results confirm what supporters have always maintained: that bottles and cans account for roughly half of Tennessee’s litter volume.)
But even if they don’t have a bicycle, Davis said, Tennesseans can still show their support by tying a couple of empty plastic bottles to a green ribbon, and hanging them from a mailbox or fencepost. With luck, she said, she’ll be greeted by these little green sentinels everywhere she goes.
For details about the bill or the bike ride, including a map of the route, go to or contact Davis at (615) 758-8647 or
WCP 10.04.07

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