Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bottle Bill languishes in Session's Final Hours

BOTTLE BILL: Proponents of a bill to expand a state bottle recycling program cited increased momentum in the final weeks of the Senate session, pointing to a compromise proposal that emerged from committee as evidence. The current program adds a 5-cent deposit onto the cost of carbonated beverages that may be redeemed by consumers who bring them to designated recycling centers. Proponents say the program has helped increase recycling rates for those bottles, but that the current law omits bottled water and sports drinks, which have proliferated in recent years. A bill to include those types of bottles in the program gained some momentum toward the end of the session but ultimately never saw the floor of either branch.

From the State House News Service

Friday, July 16, 2010

Updated Bottle Bill gets green light from Committee, moves to Senate

For the first time in the 16 years it has been pending in the Legislature, the Updated Bottle Bill got a favorable report today from the Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee. Today was the extended deadline the committee had set for taking action on the bill, and Senate Chairman Mike Morrissey, along with House Chairman Barry Finegold, put the bill out with a favorable report within the first few minutes of the Committee meeting today.

“The Committee’s favorable report puts huge wind behind the sails of this important bill, which is guaranteed to increase recycling, reduce litter, and save cities and towns disposal costs. We look forward to getting it all the way through the process and enacted into law this session,” said Janet S. Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

One tipping point for the previously stalled bill may have been a press event held last week in the State House; drawing 160 supporters on a 90’, humid weekday morning. The League of Women Voters, the Mass Municipal Association, the Environmental League of MA, and Mass Recycle were among the 25 organizations who showed up to urge quick passage of the bill.

“It’s been clear all along that the majority of the public supports this bill because it is good for the environment, it’s good for conserving natural resources, and it makes plain common sense to update the containers covered by the original Bottle Bill,” said James McCaffrey, Director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, a key member of the coalition.

Rep. Alice Wolf (Cambridge) and Sen. Cynthia Creem (Newton) have been the chief advocates for the bill in the House and the Senate. There are approximately two weeks left in the session, and the proponents of the bill are optimistic that it can go through the rest of the process by session’s end.


Updated Bottle Bill Moving Forward

BOSTON – Representative Alice K. Wolf (D-Cambridge) announced today that a modified version of legislation she filed to update the Massachusetts Bottle Bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) filed the Senate version.

This is the first time that an Updated Bottle Bill has been reported favorably from committee. The original Bottle Bill was enacted in 1982.

“This critical step forward represents the good work of dozens of legislators and advocates across the Commonwealth,” Representative Wolf stated. “But this is only one of the first steps in the legislative process. The Updated Bottle Bill is a win-win-win, and we have no time to lose in moving it ahead.”

“I applaud the Committee’s decision and hope the bill will be passed soon,” said Representative Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown), who along with Representative Wolf has been leading efforts in the House to organize support for the bill. “It will help the environment, reduce costs for cities and towns, and save jobs.”

The bill adds a deposit on bottles for water in all its incarnations, from plain to flavored and vitamin-enhanced, and for tea and sports drinks. It also increases the handling fee for bottle and can redemption centers.

“This is great progress,” noted Phillip Sego of the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “The Bottle Bill is the state’s most successful recycling program, but it needs to be updated to keep up with the times.”

In addition to the important environmental benefits, the bill is projected to save cities and towns $4-7 million in litter cleanup and disposal and bring in $18-20 million in additional revenue to the state from unclaimed deposits. Eager to find ways to cut costs, about 150 cities and towns have adopted a resolution in support of updating the Bottle Bill.

“Getting this important bill out of committee is like hitting a good single,” declared Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MassPIRG. “Getting the updated bottle bill all the way home to become law this session would certainly make the Legislature All-Stars.”

Many groups and individuals are advocating for the bill to pass this session. In addition to legislators in the House and Senate, the Sierra Club, MassPIRG, South Shore Recycling Cooperative, League of Women Voters, MassRecycle, Charles River Conservancy, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Mass Municipal Association, and Metro Mayors Council have been hard at work. Owners of bottle and can redemption centers who face bankruptcy without the increased handling fee support the bill as well.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Statement by Mayor Thomas M. Menino on Committee Approval of Expanded Bottle Bill

“For years, I have proposed legislation to close the loophole in the Bottle Bill to promote recycling efforts and help keep our neighborhoods clean. Today, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy took an important step in advancing legislation that will expand the definition of beverage containers to include water bottles and sports drinks.

When the Bottle Bill became law in 1982, no one could have predicted the huge increase in consumption of bottled water and sports drinks. Today, these containers often litter our streets, business districts and parks. This legislation gives us a real opportunity to prevent litter while saving important municipal resources spent on trash collection.

I applaud the Committee for moving this bill forward. I also want to thank East Boston Representative Carlo Basile for working with me on this legislation and for being a strong voice for Boston residents on this Committee. There are countless environmental groups, legislators and communities committed to this issue, and I look forward to continuing our work together to get this bill passed.”


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Big Push at the State House for Updated Bottle Bill

In a dramatic show of support, over 150 people showed up at the State House today, despite 90 degree heat, in an event organized to call on the Legislature to pass the Updated Bottle Bill. The bill (H3515/S1480) would increase recycling of beverage containers and reduce litter in ballfields, parks, streets, and waterways. The crowd included over a dozen legislators, from both sides of the aisle, who have become restless for movement on the bill as the end of the legislative session, scheduled for July 31, draws closer.

Representative Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge), the lead sponsor of the bill, led off the event by saying, “This bill is win/win/win/win -- good for the environment, good for bringing in revenue to the state, good for saving cities and towns money, and good for reducing litter.” The original Bottle Bill, enacted in 1983, stands as the most effective recycling program in the state, with over 70% of containers redeemed and an additional 10% recycled. The update would extend the nickel deposit to vitamin drinks, water bottles, iced teas, and many juices, only 20% of which are currently recycled.

“This measure not only makes sense to increase recycling, but it will save cities and towns precious dollars in waste collection and disposal costs,” said Tom Philbin, Legislative Director of the Mass Municipal Association. “In crunched budget times like these, we simply cannot ignore this opportunity.”

The coalition pushing for the measure includes over fifty organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the Environmental League of MA, the Charles River Conservancy, MassRecycle, Surfrider Foundation, and many more. James McAffrey, director of the Sierra Club of MA, remarked, “This is not just an environmental issue, it’s also about jobs, the economy and millions for the state budget. This is an issue of common sense.”

While the standard deadline for bills to move out of their first committee comes in mid-March, this bill’s progress was stalled until July 14, a date which strikes supporters as arbitrary, late in the session, and frustrating for the public, which strongly favors updating the bottle bill.
“In the spirit of Independence Day, we call on the leadership of the Legislature to free this bill and bring it to a vote, letting the democratic process unfold as it should,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.


Note: View video from the event here:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Op-Ed: What’s the difference between a deposit and a tax?

Now that you've just paid your taxes, raise your hand if you know the difference between a tax and a deposit.

If you overpaid, or had a really bad year, you may be getting a refund on the taxes you had withheld. But the government usually keeps most of it, and we have no recourse. It’s our mandatory contribution to the Commonwealth and the country.

On the other hand, if you bought a case of beer, nobody can stop you from getting back the nickel deposit you paid on each container, if only you bring it back from whence it came. If you drink beer regularly, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll be going back there anyway.

The government doesn’t require you to either buy the beer or return the containers. You have freedom of choice on both counts. You may also choose to donate the containers to a good cause, such as the Boy Scouts, or the school music program. You can even put them in the trash or drop them on the ground. With a nickel value, you can go to sleep that night knowing that someone else might pick them up and redeem them.

The Bottle Bill is the single most successful recycling program in the state. About 80% of containers covered by the deposit are redeemed or recycled. On the other hand, nearly 80%of containers without a refundable deposit on them are wasted in the trash, or littered.

Opponents of updating the 27-year-old Bottle Bill (to add water, sports drinks, ice tea and juices), including Coke, Pepsi and other big special interests don’t have good arguments to block this, so they try to confuse the issue by equating the refundable deposit on their beverage containers with a tax. They say that waste should go in your home recycling bin. But the opponents seem to forget that Massachusetts citizens have been putting down deposits on bottles for 27 years, and they understand fully the difference between a tax and a deposit.

The truth is most of the bottlers’ products are consumed away from home, in public spaces where recycling containers are hard to find and manage. Your local property taxes pay for your municipality to clean up and dispose of downtown, ball field, beach, and school trash. You have very little control over this cost.

You are already paying a tax to manage the beverage containers that don’t have refundable deposits. It’s time to let our legislators know that we understand the difference between a tax and a refundable deposit.

Tax: [tæks]
1. n. An amount of money that you have to pay to the government so that it can pay for public services.

Deposit: [di-poz'-it]
1. n. A sum of money which you pay when you start renting something. The money is returned to you if you do not damage it.

We truly hope that this has helped clarify any misconceptions that are out there, and that the legislature will move quickly to pass the Updated Bottle Bill (H3515/S1480), which has been pending for more than several legislative sessions and is widely supported by the public of Massachusetts.

Phillip Sego, Massachusetts Sierra Club
Claire Sullivan, MassRecycle, South Shore Recycling Coop

Friday, April 30, 2010

Curbside vs. the Bottle Bill?

Too often in the discussion about expanding the bottle bill, I have heard references to curbside recycling, either that the bottle bill will hurt curbside recycling (which we have already chatted about and I don't want to re-hash here), or that we don't need the bottle bill because we have curbside recycling and can just improve that.

In response to that myth, I would urge all of you to look at the 2008 DEP solid waste generation figures just released. Only 40% of the MSW in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is generated from Residential sources. Let me repeat that. Over half and almost 2/3 of the MSW generated in Massachusetts is from non-residential sources. Thus, even if you perfectly captured bottles and cans from curbside collection programs, and at the risk of offending some of you, I would argue that none of you are doing that and many are not even close, you would still only be doing so for only 40% of the MSW waste stream.

Saying we don't need the bottle bill because we have improved curbside collection is in my opinion makes almost as little sense as me suggesting that I don't need vitamin B, C, or E because I am getting plenty of calcium.

I think the bottle bill has been the most effective way to recycle bottles & cans since it's inception, and I think it is time that we allow this tool to be used for all of the new specialty beverage bottles that have been developed since the original bottle bill was first passed.

My two cents worth.

Roger Guzowski

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Remember to Recycle

Letter to the Editor of the Carlisle Mosquito

Thank you to the organizers and sponsors of the 2010 Mosquito Trash Party. As a first-year participant, I found it a satisfying and surprising experience.

Having surveyed the litterscape while walking to Trash Party Central, I was confident one bag would be plenty for my trash mile. I was wrong. That lone bag was stuffed to overflowing by the time I finished.

Fifteen minutes along my Trash Party trail, the value of trash as an archeological treasure trove was clear. The haul from this grimy pursuit was type-consistent. Aside from the odd, sodden t-shirt (Men’s, X Large), and a trash lid most likely flipped from its container during its trip to or from the Transfer Station, the bulk of items fell into one category: beverage containers. The containers consisted of a variety of plastic bottles (recyclable, non-redeemable) and aluminum beer cans (redeemable or recyclable). Virtually all of these finds were in the vacant spaces between homes, suggesting the litterers were just passing through and showing their respect by not throwing their trash onto our lawns. The story of this roadside trash is one of abundance and a disposable culture.

It’s ironic that while some are urging legislation to “Drill, baby, drill” for oil, plastic bottles are made of PET which is 99% petroleum. Over 1 billion containers a year are littered or thrown into incinerators or landfills in Massachusetts alone. It’s estimated that the energy used to replace the 134 billion discarded beverage containers in the US in 2005 is equivalent to 50 million barrels of crude oil. While a nickel deposit isn’t worth some peoples’ while even in down times, the aluminum in those beer cans, as well as PET plastic, are two of the more highly valued recyclable stocks.

Passing an update to the 1982 Bottle Bill to include contemporary containers and switching to reusable, non-BPA bottles are steps in the right direction for dealing with this problem. Short of those measures, we need to diligently redeem or recycle what we use. Don’t let valuable, finite resources go up in Wheelabrator smoke. Please.

Launa Zimmaro

Lowell Street

Carlisle Sierra Club Committee, Chair

Member of Carlisle Household Recycling Committee

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Observing Earth Day

A group of Sharon residents observed Earth Day this year by studying Sharon’s trash. Here are the results of an hour spent retrieving cans and bottles from Sharon’s roadways and trash barrels.

A. Roadside litter

Total beverage containers retrieved: 617
Non-deposit water and sports drinks: 408 (66%)
5¢ deposit cans and bottles: 209 (34%)

B. Trash barrels at Deborah Sampson ball fields, Sharon High School and Memorial Park Beach

Total beverage containers retrieved: 106
Non-deposit water and sports drinks: 91 (86%)
5¢ deposit cans and bottles: 15 (14%)

After sorting and counting the containers, the residents took the 499 non-deposit containers to the DPW recycling station to keep them from ending up in a landfill.

The 224 deposit containers went to the nearest redemption center, eight miles away in Stoughton. Stuck with an inflation-eroded handling fee of 2.25¢ per container set in 1983, many redemption centers have gone out of business in recent years.


• Far more non-deposit than deposit containers are littering our roadways and filling our landfills.
• The 2.25¢ handling fee is no longer enough to ensure an adequate number of redemption centers.

The Bottle Bill has been one of the most successful environmental laws ever enacted in Massachusetts. Approximately 80% of deposit containers are recycled, versus only around 22% for non-deposit containers. It’s time to update the Bottle Bill to require deposits on bottled water and other non-carbonated beverages and increase the handling fee to ensure conveniently located redemption centers.

The Sharon Selectmen recently voted in favor of a resolution supporting a Bottle Bill update. Please call your state representative and senator, and ask them to help pass this common-sense legislation (H3515 / S1480).

Happy Earth Day!

Paul Lauenstein

Friday, April 9, 2010

Municipalities Would Gain Several Million Dollars with Bottle Bill Update

Groups tout DEP report which shows savings on litter cleanup and trash fees

Joint news release from MASSPIRG, Massachusetts Sierra Club, and MassRecycle

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued a report that itemizes how much cities and towns will benefit from updating the Massachusetts bottle bill, legislation which has been pending for years in the state legislature and is getting a big push this spring from a broad coalition, including the League of Women Voters, Mass Municipal Association, the Environmental League of MA, and many more.

With growing awareness of the waste and public expense that come from throwaway containers, an expanding coalition has been pressing the Legislature to finally expand the nickel deposit system to cover water and other “single serve” beverage containers that now end up as litter in parks, on roadsides, and in landfills.

The DEP report, “Municipal Benefits of an Updated Bottle Bill,” shows that municipalities can expect to save between $4.3 to $7 million annually, by avoiding cleanup and disposal costs for these beverage containers. “This would amount to a savings of roughly $1 for each resident of the Commonwealth, each year,” said Claire Sullivan, Executive Director of the South Shore Recycling Cooperative, an association of 13 communities south of Boston. “For example, Weymouth and Plymouth could each expect to save about $50,000 per year. Duxbury’s DPW Director independently estimated his cost to manage the beverage containers that aren’t in the deposit system at $10,000.”

“The Bottle Bill is the state’s most successful recycling and litter prevention program. Since its inception in 1983, over 30 billion containers have been redeemed, contributing to a healthier environment, cleaner and safer communities, and a stronger economy,” said Phil Sego, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “But to keep up with the times and consumers’ tastes, the bottle bill must be updated.”

“Every year, we send over 1 billion containers to our landfills, enough to fill Fenway Park to overflowing,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG). “If these water, juice, and vitamin drink containers had a deposit, we’d eliminate litter, reduce trash, and save taxpayer dollars, as the DEP report shows. We need an update now.””

Sunday, March 28, 2010

WWLP: Proposed expansion of state bottle bill

video report:

Proposed expansion of state bottle bill
More types of bottles subject to 5-cent deposit

Published : Thursday, 29 Jan 2009, 7:52 PM EST
by: Veronica Cintron

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Governor Deval Patrick is looking to expand the state's bottle bill as part of his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2010.

Skip West visits Cabot Liquors in Chicopee at least twice a week to return dozens of empty cans. For each container, he gets a 5 cent refund.

Cabot Liquors owner Donald LaValley told 22News, as many as 80 people return cans and bottles here every day.

A new state initiative is aimed at encouraging more Bay State residents to do the same.

Governor Deval Patrick is looking to expand the state's bottle bill as part of his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2010.

The goal is to help keep Bay State cities and towns clean while increasing revenue for environmental programs.

Governor Patrick is expanding the current bottle bill to also include containers of water, flavored water, juices, sports drinks and coffee based drinks of less than a gallon in size.

That means, they will be subject to a 5-cent refundable deposit. Currently, the law only applies to carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, beer and other malt beverages.

With the revenue generated from this initiative, the state plans to increase funding for recycling and solid waste management programs by 46-percent and will also provide additional funding to clean water programs

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Make bottle redemption worth our while

SPEAK OUT: Make bottle redemption worth our while
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Feb 24, 2010 @ 05:00 AM

I am responding to the Feb. 8 Ledger article on the new bottle bill, “State aims to expand returns.”

Gov. Deval Patrick could care less about the environmental aspects of the bill. It’s all about revenue enhancement.

He wants the state to turn back $5 million of a projected $20 million take to the Department of Environment Protection.

In other words, the state gets 100 percent of the added revenue; 25 percent to clean up the environment and 75 percent to be buried in the general fund.

This is in addition to current revenues derived from bottles not redeemed.

Judeth Van Hamm, president of Sustainable South Shore, attests to the fact the current bottle bill is not working: “Walking the Hull beaches and seeing water bottles discarded along shoreline leaves her frustrated,” and rightly so.

How many times have you noticed returnable beer and soda bottles – worth a whole nickel – littering the clover leafs?

A nickel deposit isn’t cutting it.

In 1956 I was 10 years old, and I got a nickel refund on every bottle I could scrounge. I even went door-to-door, and neighbors eagerly surrendered there nickel bottle refunds.

That’s when you could get a piece of penny candy for a penny, and gasoline was some where south of 20 cents a gallon. Now a 1956 nickel is worth 40 cents in 2010 dollars.

Given this fact, I have a message for the governor and Ms. Van Hamm: The bottles on the beach and the $20 million in the state coffers are there because a nickel isn’t worth five cents. My kids abhor pennies and won’t even bend over to pick up a nickel.

If they won’t pick up a nickel, what makes you think they will cart a smelly, dirty bottle to a redemption center for a nickel refund?

The bottle bill is about three issues: Reducing pollution, increase recycling and creating a monetary reward that induces the desired behavior.

Here’s the solution: Raise the bottle refundable deposit to a minimum of 10 cents on all plastic and glass containers.

Why not include those bulky laundry detergent bottles at the very least?

If you raise the refundable deposit to a reasonable level, you will induce the desired behavior.

The operative word here is “refundable.” This is not an increased cost to the average consumer.

Along with this change, the fee allotted to the redemption centers should be increased.

More redemption centers facilitates the return process and adds jobs.

If the redemption price is right, maybe cities and towns wouldn’t need that extra set of recycling pick-up trucks, thereby reducing trash bids.

Rich Hendrick lives in Weymouth.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bottle Bill Crucial for our Future

Bottle Bill Crucial for our Future
Guest commentary
By Dr. Michael F. Epstein
Wicked Local Cambridge
Posted Feb 16, 2010 @ 10:31 AM
Last update Feb 16, 2010 @ 11:52 AM
Cambridge —

I spend an hour or two every day walking or running through the streets of Cambridge. From our home in West Cambridge, I run along Memorial Drive as far east as the Museum of Science and as far west as the Watertown line. I walk into Harvard Square, Porter Square, Central or Kendall Square for shopping, lunch dates, or just to enjoy the urban bustle and “fine weather.”

I love our city’s diversity whether in architecture, ethnic restaurants, bookshops or people in our community, and I marvel at the beauty of the parklands along the Charles River. And on each of these walks and runs, I pick up the discarded bottles and cans that mar this urban experience and are a jarring note in an otherwise pleasing and stimulating setting. With a typical run yielding two to five cans/bottles, and the occasional walk with a plastic bag yielding up to 30 or so, I’ve managed to pick up more than 1,500 bottles in the last three years of walking around Cambridge. This is a rather distressing commentary on our littering society.

The commonwealth passed a bottle bill in 1981 and implemented it in 1983, and by any measure, it has been a huge success. The “litter load” on our streets declined, the entry of potentially recyclable materials into our wastestream decreased, and the commonwealth netted millions of dollars to be used for local aid for schools, fire and police departments, park maintenance, etc. The specter of consumers fleeing convenience and package stores in Massachusetts to buy soft drinks and beer in New Hampshire never occurred, and the positive impact on the environment has been quite significant.

It is now time to extend and expand that original bill to cover additional containers, most importantly, the huge growth in bottled water, juice and energy drinks that could not have been foreseen 20 years ago. Americans discard more than 75 billion disposable beverage containers each year, and only 20 percent of those are recycled. More than one-third of the bottles and cans I’ve picked up over the last three years had held bottled water, and the irony is that most of the bottled water that consumers pay mightily for is no different from the tap water that costs less than a penny/gallon. Moreover, the cost to the environment of bottled water is significant at both the manufacturing end and the disposing end of the process. The totaled estimated energy needed to make, transport and dispose of one bottle of water is equivalent to filling that same bottle one-quarter full of oil and then throwing it away. Americans are beginning to understand the waste involved in this “created demand” for bottled water and have begun to slow the annual increase in consumption of this product. It is now time to further motivate people to change this behavior while also cleaning up our city.

House Bill 3515, introduced by Alice Wolf, state representative from Cambridge, and Senate Bill 1480, introduced by Cynthia Creem, state senator from Newton, would extend the current 5-cent deposit on containers to water, juice and energy drinks. Conservative estimates indicate that the expanded deposit law would reduce litter from those sources by 70 percent while also generating $18 million-$20 million/year for the commonwealth at a time of financial difficulty for our cities and towns. This bill makes good sense for the environment, for our financial stability, and for the quality of life in our commonwealth.

The bill is currently languishing in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy where it is beset by “end-of-the-world” scenarios put forward by the bottling industry and store owners near the New Hampshire border. It is time for the commonwealth’s citizens to indicate to their representatives that this is a good bill that deserves to be made law for the good of all the citizens. We in Cambridge can look forward to cleaner streets and riverbanks, as well as more long-term benefits to our environment with passage of this bill.

You can help. Contact your state representative (Alice Wolf, Marty Walz, Timothy Toomey, Jonathan Hecht or Byron Rushing) to thank them for supporting the bill and contact the chairs of the Joint Committee, Rep. Barry Finegold of Andover and Sen. Michael Morrissey of Quincy, to urge that they move the bill out of committee.

Dr. Michael F. Epstein is vice chairman of the Charles River Conservancy board of directors.