Patricia's Porch Talk: Ninety-Nine Bottles
by Patricia Paris
posted February 10, 2006
"Take one down, pass it around?!"
Tradition is defined as "generation to generation transfer with no official encouragement," much like the camp songs of our youth.
The Ninety-Nine Bottles song is so old I was unable to track its origins, save a couple of "writer unknown" footnotes, yet it remains alive and lively. Do you think its author would have written the lyrics differently in USA 2006, fingers flying on a keyboard under the spotlight of a gooseneck halogen desk lamp instead of the laborious transfer of ink to quill to parchment? Would a modern songwriter of a song about bottles not grow weary of those repetitive lyrics and write instead about the growing number of bottles tossed into lakes and on roadsides, or left strewn in public parks? Would plastic shopping bags and super-sized drinking cups not be included in the song as well?
Some states have taken a huge bite out of their trash heaps by proposing a deposit on bottles. They guessed correctly that many intelligent, reasonable people would religiously round up their bottles and return them if it would put money in their pockets. With the passing of bottle bills, gathering and returning bottles provides a source of income for the needy, the greedy, and your everyday budget-conscious citizen, while diminishing the number of unsightly bottles and cans along rivers, roadsides, and parks as much as 50 percent.
Rep. Russell Johnson and Sen. Randy McNally are once again trying to combat this growing problem by drafting a new version of the bottle bill that includes several changes from the 2005 bill. The 2006 bill stipulates that $10 million of unclaimed deposits will go to the County Litter Grants Program, increases the container handling fee to 3¢, and increases the maximum container size to two liters. It boggles the mind wondering how this bill was ever defeated in 2005. Pickup programs haven't been able to compete with the growing trash heaps. Educating the public apparently hasn't worked either; the trash is still there and at unacceptable levels.
The bottle bill is not to be confused with a tax. It is not a tax. In simple terms, it means that many bottles will never hit the ground and that for every bottle-tossing jerk, someone much smarter will come along and not only pick behind them (at no expense to us) but also make a few cents on it. The proposed deposit would apply to beer and soft drinks as well as bottled water, juices, and sports drinks with the resultant goal, based on existing programs, of boosting Tennessee's overall redemption rate to as much as 70-80 percent.
If you, the concerned citizens of our beautiful state, share these concerns, I hope you will speak out by expressing them to your legislators.
The Bottles On The Wall camp song will be around for many generations to come, but perhaps a young, poetic mind will pen a litter-free version that collects the deposit on all ninety-nine.
Copyright © 2006 Patricia Paris
Patricia Paris is an author/columnist from East Tennessee
Tennessee Mountain Writers;
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