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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