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.

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