, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 3, 2014

Fight brews over expanding Massachusetts' bottle bill

BOSTON -- Environmental activists are making another push on Beacon Hill to expand the types of containers covered by Massachusetts’ bottle bill to include non-carbonated beverages such as water, tea and sports drinks.

It’s a move that is opposed by powerful lobbies in the beverage industry. Currently, soda and beer containers are the only kinds of cans and bottles that carry a deposit fee in Massachusetts.

Senate and House lawmakers are trying to negotiate a compromise on the contentious issue, with the end of the legislative session of July 31 ticking closer. Similar efforts in the past, even with the support of Gov. Deval Patrick, have gotten nowhere.

Supporters of an expanded bottle bill are taking nothing for granted. They’re gearing up to gather sufficient signatures to put the issue before voters on the November ballot. They need to collect another 12,000 names before a July deadline.

Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, is helping to lead the charge. She said a broader bottle bill would increase recycling, reduce roadside litter, and cut down on the amount of waste going into municipal trash incinerators and landfills.

“The bottle deposit system is the most effective recycling tool we have in the state, if not the country,” she said.

Opponents of the bill include a coalition of beverage companies and supermarket chains. They argue that bottle deposits are an outdated and inefficient method to boost recycling, and one that burdens retailers with trash collection.

“We’re the only business in the state that has to take back our customers’ trash,” said Bob Selby, owner of Kappy’s Liquors in Peabody and Danvers. “We find syringes and condoms in the beer bottles and cans. It’s absolutely disgusting.”

Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, said the deposit system is antiquated, largely replaced by environmental friendly recycling programs across the state.

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