OUR OPINION: Flexible stance on bottle bill makes it easier to swallow
In 1981, the idea that people would pay $1 for a bottle of water was laughable.
There was no Red Bull. No Monster.
And iced tea? That came strictly from a pitcher, steeped in the fridge or on sun-drenched porches and window sills.
Proof that much has changed in the past 27 years can be found among the blueberry thickets at World’s End in Hingham, the sands of Wollaston Beach in Quincy and on school ballfields throughout the South Shore.
The clear plastic bottles and brightly colored cans that litter these spaces are testament to the need to update the state’s bottle bill.
Originally targeted at carbonated beverages, Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed the 5 cent deposit be expanded to include water, iced tea, juices and energy drinks.
His Energy and Environment Secretary, Ian Bowles, recently told the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee that the exempted products – once niche items – now account for 30 percent of the beverages in the Bay State market.
Bowles said expanding the law to include non-carbonated beverages would bring the state in line with recent laws passed in Maine, New York and Connecticut, reduce pressure on local landfills and encourage greater recycling rates.
State Sen. Richard R. Tisei, R-Wakefield, suggests expanding the bottle bill will cost taxpayers $20 million a year “on top of all the other taxes and fees they will soon be paying.”
It’s more likely, however, that the measure would save us money.
“The need for this common-sense update couldn’t be more overdue,” said Ramon Bullard of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group. “By recycling these containers, cities and towns save money on trash and litter collection.”
As for critics who claim brimming curbside recycling bins prove we are already making great strides, they’re right. Yet a scan of any public space will show you how much further there is to go.
We are more sensitive to the strains an expanded bottle bill could place on small retailers and support Patrick’s willingness to craft a bill that would keep them from being overwhelmed by the increased load of returnables.
Patrick administration officials emphasized that they would be flexible to accommodate businesses’ concerns, noting that Maine enabled certain small businesses to opt out of the redemption program.
For years after it was enacted, the bottle bill slaked our thirst for less litter.
We have recycled 30 billion bottles and cans since 1982, according to figures from MassPIRG. Even with the deposit amount still a nickel, about 70 percent of containers with deposits are recycled.
Sweeping changes in the beverage market, however, require a new approach.
This isn’t a law that should be kicked to the curb. It’s one that should be recycled.