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Poll: Should the Bottle Bill be Updated?

More than half of Massachusetts legislators support updating the 30-year-old bottle bill, to add a five cent deposit on water and sports drink bottles in a changing beverage industry.

Walk down any public road and you'll most likely see empty water and sports drink bottles strewn across the sidewalk or in the grass along the roadside.

That may change if supporters can get the state House of Representatives to vote on an updated version of the Bottle Bill.

More than half of Massachusetts legislators, including one of Plymouth's state representatives, support updating the 30-year-old bottle bill, after heavy lobbying by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.

The updated bill would add new beverage containers to the list of containers on which retailers, and consumers, pay a five cent deposit. Supporters say that the deposit will encourage recycling of the nearly 80 percent of beverage containers that are not covered by the current bottle bill, which currently only includes soda and beer containers. 

The bill has been on the backseat for legislators for more than a decade as bottled water and sports drinks gained popularity, but renewed efforts by MassPIRG have caused the bill to gain traction.

As trash fees continue to increase and tipping fees at trash-burning plants and landfills increase as well, keeping plastic bottles out of the waste stream could keep 1 billion bottles out of Massachusetts landfills and incinerators, according to MassPIRG.

"Every year the Bottle Bill gets held up, another 1 billion bottles — enough to fill Fenway Park to the Monster seats — get buried and burned instead of recycled," according to MassPIRG's website.

Although the bill has been strongly opposed by the beverage industry and retailers, including cranberry giant Ocean Spray, supporters say the five cent deposit is something consumers are used to paying on carbonated beverages.

Back in 1982, MASSPIRG led the fight to pass the original Bottle Bill. As a result of this first statewide recycling program, today, 80% of bottles and cans covered under the Bottle Bill are recycled instead of buried or burned.

But only 20% of containers not covered under this deposit law end up being recycled. That adds up to more than 1 billion water, energy and sports drink bottles per year that get thrown in our landfills or burned in incinerators.

According to research conducted by MassPIRG, state Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, supports the proposed bill, along with 104 other state legislators out of 196. Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and state Rep. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, have not voiced an opinion on the bill.

HOW THE BOTTLE BILL WORKS

  • Massachusetts retailers pay distributors a 5-cent deposit for each can or bottle purchased.
  • When buying a beverage, the consumer pays the deposit to the retailer.
  • The consumer gets the 5-cent deposit refunded when they return the can or bottle to the retail store, a redemption center or a reverse vending machine.
  • The retailer recovers the deposit from the distributor, plus an additional handling fee of 2.25 cents for handling the empty bottles and cans. The end result: containers end up recycled and reused instead of thrown away.
  • Not all consumers redeem their containers for the deposit. In Massachusetts, distributors and bottlers are required to turn over unclaimed deposits to the state. These funds used to go to the state’s Clean Environment Fund, which supported local and statewide recycling efforts. They now go into the state's General Fund instead.

MANY NEW CONTAINERS ARE NOT COVERED

  • We need to update the Bottle Bill so that the deposit covers new containers.
  • The handling fee needs to be increased to 3 cents so redemption centers can continue operating.
  • We need to restore the dedicated Clean Environment Fund.

The full text of House bill 890 can be found here. The companion Senate bill 1650 can be found here

MassPIRG is asking supporters of the Bottle Bill to contact Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and tell him to bring the bill forward.

Call the Speaker's office at 617-722-2500, and tell him you want him to bring the Updated Bottle Bill forward. Post our call to action on your Facebook wall. Between MASSPIRG and SignOn.org, we're nearing 15,000 emails to the Speaker. Help us get to 15,000 by sharing our campaign with your friends. If you don't have Facebook, you can also email your friends or post to Twitter using our tool.

Michael Muggeridge June 15, 2012 at 12:41 AM
An editorial in favor of bottle bill, not a news report. This is advocacy not journalism.
Casey Meserve June 15, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I beg to differ. Providing information on this bill and it's history is not advocacy.
Jrn Sirwan June 16, 2012 at 10:16 AM
It appears that Patch routinely smudges the line between journalism and advocacy, like having "news" articles written by people involved in the particular event.
Michael Muggeridge June 18, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Happily, this noxious tax was sent to a legislative committee for further "study". The community organizers will have to redouble their efforts to revive this zombie from the legislative graveyard. Perhaps (at that time) the Patch will provide analysis of both sides of the issue and cease the advocacy.

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