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Lowell Sun

BOSTON -- Litterbugs and waste mongers would 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 about 700 million non-carbonated 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 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 amongst 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 opposed the original bill.

According to John G. Harrington, owner of Harrington's Wine and Liquors, in Chelmsford, business owners should get an additional handling fee to help take care of increased volumes of containers. 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."

Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, believes more efforts should be put toward curbside recycling instead.

"We shouldn't be putting our businesses at a competitive disadvantage," Panagiotakos said.

Representatives from Mass Sierra say these complaints are nothing new.

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

According to Sego, Massachusetts has an 80 percent redemption rate for containers through blue bin recycling and redeemed containers. The majority of the remaining 20 percent are from non-deposit containers.

When questioned about the comments made by business owners, Sego responded by saying the best result for the economy and environment aren't always in tune.

Sego said that consumers may have to pay an extra few cents to fund the additional recycling projects, but describes this as a "very minor problem."

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, said she would still like to open the deposit to non-carbonated 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 '80, her priorities were different. "That campaign, I didn't have children. Now I do."

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