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: