Students encourage state representatives to adopt tire bill

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(Host) The Vermont Legislature routinely hears from lobbyists representing a wide range of businesses and organizations.

On Friday, lawmakers listened to high school students whose work to clean up a river led them to the halls of the Statehouse.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Winooski River runs right by Montpelier High School. And in the spring, the students climb into canoes and haul trash out of the water. And each year they find tires, lots of tires.

(Sedano) “In 2003, in the two mile stretch of the Winooski we found 346 tires. And the next year we found 263.”

(Dillon) Caroline Sedano is a junior at the school. She listed the tire statistics for the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

(Sedano) “This is a current problem. It’s not just that the tires are just laying there and we just keep on finding more. The tires are being continually dumped right outside our high school.”

(Dillon) Ruth Lazenby is a high school senior. She says students got frustrated that the river kept getting trashed.

(Lazenby) “It was hard cleaning that same section up, our little section of the river every year, and have people disrespect it year after year after year.”

(Dillon) The students figured that a financial incentive might stop people from tossing tires over the riverbank.

So they asked their state representative, Francis Brooks, to sponsor a bill that would require a $6 deposit on tires. The idea is similar to the bottle bill. Under the tire legislation, when a consumer brings the old tire back to the dealer, $5 would be returned. The remainder would go to the state, the tire retailer and to help create markets for used tires.

The committee listened, and then asked some hard questions. A representative from the eastern side of the state worried that a mandatory deposit would send Vermonters to New Hampshire to buy their new tires. And Representative James McCullough, a Democrat from Williston, wanted to know if the additional fee for the tire deposit would be a disadvantage to small mom and pop tires stores.

(McCullough) “With all due respect my constituents understand that everybody will have to pay the same mark-up for their tires but because the price is getting so much more expensive, they’ll drive to a big tire mart and save more money and they’ll be put out of business “

(Dillon) Lazenby replied that a survey last Town Meeting Day found strong support for the tire deposit bill.

(Lazenby) “Vermonters do support this issue and I believe with proper education they will accept it with open arms and that they will continue supporting their local businesses and with proper understanding they will continue buying their tires and properly disposing of them.”

(McCullough) Awesome response, thank you..

(Dillon) The committee will hear next from tire retailers and others who may be more skeptical of the legislation. For their part, the students plan to keep up the pressure in the Statehouse.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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