Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cape Cod Times: Update bottle bill

Editorial: September 08, 2011

Let's face facts. The 5-cent deposit on carbonated bottles and cans, collected in Massachusetts since 1983, has worked.

Today, 80 percent of beer and soda containers are recycled — more than twice the recycling rate for nondeposit containers. The bottle law has also reduced litter, employed 14,000 people in the recycling industry, and helped nonprofits gain extra cash from bottle and can collection efforts.

So if the law works for beer and soda containers, why wouldn't it work for noncarbonated containers?

When the bottle bill was passed 28 years ago, carbonated beverages dominated the market. Today, noncarbonated drinks are the fastest-growing segment of the market. These products now make up more than half of all nonalcoholic beverages sold, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"Every year across Massachusetts, more than 30,000 tons of noncarbonated beverage bottles are buried in landfills, burned in waste-to-energy plants, or tossed onto our streets, parks and beaches," wrote Kenneth Kimmell, commissioner of the state DEP.

"That's enough plastic bottles to fill Fenway Park ... five times."

As a result, Massachusetts must update its bottle law to include bottled water, sports drinks, teas and other noncarbonated beverages.

"In Massachusetts, 40 percent of the beverages sold come in containers not subject to nickel deposits, and these same containers account for 83 percent of the bottles and cans we throw away," Kimmell said.

According to the DEP:

— An expanded bottle law would save Massachusetts communities an estimated $7 million annually in trash collection and disposal costs.

— There are four times as many noncarbonated beverage containers in litter than beverage containers with deposits.

— Massachusetts community and nonprofit groups that raise funds by redeeming bottles and cans could see their proceeds increase by 40 percent.

— More than 75 percent of residents and nearly 200 communities favor updating the deposit law to include noncarbonated beverage containers, according to a MassINC survey.

Opponents claim an expanded bottle law would raise prices and impose a burden on retailers.

But Kimmell said his department conducted a survey of beverage prices at supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers in several Northeast states, including Maine, which has a law that covers carbonated and noncarbonated containers.

"There is no evidence of significant cost increases as a result of bottle law updates in Maine and Connecticut," Kimmell said.

"Let's make a choice that will result in more jobs, less litter and greener communities for generations to come."

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Updated Bottle Bill Campaign Puts Spotlight on Legislature

News Release
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Boston, MA – The Campaign for an Updated Bottle Bill announced today that they have now reached a majority of state legislators in support of an updated bottle bill. As a result, the coalition will press ahead with the pending legislative bill and forego the initiative petition process.

“Since filing the initiative petition with the Attorney General, more legislators have joined our effort providing a legislative majority. With a majority of legislators, and with respect for an open and democratic process ahead, we look forward to a vote on overwhelmingly popular and critical issue soon,” commented Janet Domenitz, spokesperson for the campaign and Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming support of the public—a recent MassINC Polling Group showed 77% of the public in favor of the bill—as well as the support of municipal leaders from 200 cities and towns across the Commonwealth, including Boston’s Mayor Menino. On July 20, over 300 people trekked to a public hearing to support the bill in the State House. Given this mandate both inside and outside the State House, we now believe the best strategy to update the most successful recycling program in the state is in the legislature,” said James McCaffrey, Director of Sierra Club of Massachusetts.

On August 3, supporters of the Updated Bottle Bill, H890/S1650, a bill which would add water, juice, and similar containers to the existing container deposit law, filed an initiative petition with the Attorney General’s office to preserve the option of putting the proposed law to the voters in November 2012. That petition was certified by the Attorney General earlier this month and provided the additional momentum inside the legislature.

“This is a win, win, win proposal,” commented Rep. Alice Wolf, chief House sponsor of the bill. “This bill will reduce litter, increase recycling, and save cities and towns money in disposal and litter pick-up. I know many members of the House and Senate want these wins, and I know Governor Patrick wants to see this bill on his desk as soon as possible.”

The updating of the bottle bill has the strong support of the Patrick administration. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Ken Kimmell added, "Every year across Massachusetts, more than 30,000 tons of noncarbonated beverage bottles are buried in landfills, burned in waste-to-energy plants, or tossed onto our streets, parks and beaches. That's enough plastic bottles to fill Fenway Park ... five times. "

The legislative committee charged with considering the bill, co-chaired by Rep. John Keenan of Salem and Sen. Ben Downing of Pittsfield, held a hearing on July 20. The bill is awaiting action from their Committee.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

LETTER: Industry concerns about bottle bill are flawed

Letter to the Editor by Raymond A. Jussaume, Somerset
Published Aug 26, 2011

On Aug. 17, The Herald News printed a guest opinion by Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, in which he opposed the expanded bottle bill. I wish to respond.

Mr. Flynn writes that we should work harder to educate residents on best recycling practices, expand curbside recycling, and make it easier to recycle in public places. He is absolutely right. But there is no reason why these suggestions should not be acted on, along with enacting an expanded bottle bill. The bottle bill provides a motivation for recycling, missing from the above suggestions.

Mr. Flynn states that the proposed legislation “would actually interfere with successful recycling programs,” but he does not say how. The five cent deposit on aluminum cans caused no such interference, so why should a similar deposit on bottles?

Then there is the question of increased cost to consumers. Mr. Flynn worries that families are struggling to keep costs down, and says that “now is not the time to burden them with a new tax.” But no new tax is proposed, merely a redeemable deposit. The price of bottled water, iced tea, juices and sports drinks is not likely to go out of sight.

Then there is concern for increased costs to business. Mr. Flynn writes that in New York, their bottle redemption law led to plant closures in the industry, and resulted in lost jobs.

We are not told what plants closed, and therefore cannot verify that the closures were in fact due to the bottle law. But obviously not all New York plants were so affected. Nor does Mr. Flynn report closings in Maine or Connecticut, which require deposits. Also, we know that there are small breweries operating in Massachusetts, which don’t appear to suffer from the deposit on aluminum cans.

Mr. Flynn’s piece did not bring up the matter of cost to cities and towns, but soon Mt. Trashmore will reach capacity, and what will be done with municipal waste then? No new incinerators will be built.  Disposal of waste will cost a lot more, and that cost will be paid by the taxpayers. Any reduction of that cost should be desirable.

Finally, Mr. Flynn insists that there would be “no meaningful environmental benefits” resulting from adoption of an expanded bottle bill. This is terribly wrong. It’s for the sake of our environment that we should favor the bill.

It would be better for our environment if we did away with the deposit on aluminum cans, and implemented it on plastic bottles alone. Aluminum is a valuable metal, and could be recovered from the ashes of incinerators, and even from landfills.

But when plastic bottles are burned, it adds to the toxic gases released into the air. The poisons that go up in smoke do not disappear, but are washed out by the rain to bring harm to all life on earth. Even if we don’t believe at all in global warming and climate change, we have to agree that plastic bottles must be recycled.

Mr. Flynn notes that bottles “make up only a narrow portion of the waste stream.” That is true. But the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection reports that 30,000 tons of beverage bottles are discarded annually in our state. That’s 60 million pounds going to incinerators and landfills every year.

Bottles make up small percentage of municipal waste. But that small percentage should be eliminated by passing the expanded bottle bill.

Raymond A. Jussaume

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Republished by permission.