In the news

The Berkshire Eagle
Keith Howard

BOSTON — Litterbugs and waste mongers will get a fresh incentive to take bottles and cans to recycling centers across the state under a series of amendments to the state's "bottle bill."

New legislation to update the 24-year-old bottle bill would add a 5 cent deposit to noncarbonated beverages, such as iced tea, sports drinks, fruit juices and bottled water. Bottles used for dairy products, instant formula, and FDA-approved medicines would remain off the list.

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy heard testimony yesterday on different bills that propose regulations on bottle recycling in the state.

"The bottled water and juice industries have just exploded, and it just makes sense," said Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton, supporter of the legislation to make additional changes. "We need to expand that now to include those types (of beverages)."

Guyer has also filed his own bill to promote recycling among schools and communities. His plan is to set aside an annual fund dispersed by the state treasurer, would be called the Clean Environment Fund, which sets up programs to teach recycling to schoolchildren.

Money made from unclaimed deposits would generate dollars for the fund. The fund also sets aside money for bottle distributors, who oppose the original bill the proposed additions, which they say drains their profits.

According to John G. Harrington, owner of Harrington's Wine and Liquors in Chelmsford, business owners should get an additional handling fee.

Harrington said he is also forced to pay deposits to fraudulent customers, who buy beverages in neighboring states and demand deposit money.

"My customers buy beer there (New Hampshire), and bring it back to me — (then) make $1.20," he said. "It's a big problem for a guy like me right on the border."

Representatives from Mass Sierra say these complaints are nothing new. Phillip Sego, a spokesman for the group, said the best result for the economy and environment aren't always in tune.

"After bottle bill went into effect 20 years ago, the exact same arguments were made," Sego said. "The difference, if there is a difference, is minimal."

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, said she would still like to open the deposit to noncarbonated bottles and possibly raise the redemption fee, because she sees positive returns for consumers.

"The time has come for the update." She said when the campaign for the bottle bill was raised in the early '80s her priorities were different. "That campaign, I didn't have children. Now I do."

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