Eleven states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont — give this valueless stuff a value, however. Typically we pay a nickel when purchasing a container and get the nickel back if we return the container for recycling. It’s a deposit, a contract binding us to our garbage. Though these days, that nickel may elicit only the faintest twinge of regret as we toss the empty into the trash and rejoin our busy lives. More than three decades since it was first legislated, the transaction that the so-called bottle bill sets in motion — pay a nickel, recoup a nickel — is the same as ever. The world surrounding it, though, is almost unrecognizable.
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