Few issues degrading Tennessee's scenic beauty are as omnipresent, and as obnoxious, as litter.
Because empties are full of opportunities
Since 2004 (yeah, it takes a really long time!), Scenic Tennessee has led the grassroots effort to reduce litter and boost recycling in the Volunteer State via a 5¢ refundable deposit on glass, plastic and aluminum beverage containers, with returns to a network of private and nonprofit "redemption centers" statewide.
Originally known as the Tennessee Bottle Bill Project, this campaign was recently rebranded Tenn-Can to emphasize the great things Tennessee can accomplish under this program. It will not only increase Tennessee's recycling rate, put people to work, boost manufacturing, create small businesses, strengthen tourism and vastly reduce litter; it will also generate millions of dollars for local charities, community groups, sheltered workshops, Scout troops, homelessness programs, school clubs, sports teams, animal shelters, volunteer fire departments and assorted other nonprofits who will partner informally with private redemption centers or in many cases operate their own!
How big is the potential impact? Here are some numbers:
- 5 billion. That's how many beer bottles, soda cans, water bottles and other drink containers we Tennesseans consume every year.
- 10 percent. That's how many we currently recycle.
- 80 percent. That's how many we'll recycle under Tenn-Can.
- $50 million-$100 million a year. That's how much redemption centers will earn, collectively, by handling Tennessee's returns and selling high-quality scrap material to willing recyclers and manufacturers.
- $6 million-$10 million a year. That's how much Tennesseans will contribute, in the form of donated deposits, to their favorite charities and causes.
- To learn more, or to join the Tenn-Can e-mail list, go to www.tenn-can.org.
In the 10 US states, 12 Canadian provinces and 30 other jurisdictions worldwide with deposit-return laws, bottle drives collectively raise tens of millions of fundraising dollars each year. These youngsters at a Michigan elementary school raised $80 for victims of Hurricane Katrina.