Advocates for updating the state's Bottle Bill, the nickel deposit on beverage containers, issued a harsh rebuke to a recent Mass Food Association "recycling" proposal. Bottle Bill proponents labeled the proposal a "sham," calling it a blatant attempt at greenwashing. The Mass Food Association is the lobbyist for the state's supermarket and grocery industry.
On June 14, the legislative Telecommunications Utilities and Energy Committee (TUE), under pressure from industry lobbyists, voted 10-7 to block a proposed update to the state's Bottle Bill. Although the advocates had announced days earlier the support of a majority of the members of both the House and Senate, the committee's narrow vote places a hurdle before the passage of the measure.
Lobbyists from the big bottlers, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Polar, Nestle, and Ocean Spray have been pressuring the legislature to reject this bill, which would update the existing bottle bill by adding water, sports drinks, and juices. These beverages were largely nonexistent when the original law was passed 30 years ago. Big businesses claim that an update to the state's bottle bill would decrease their profits.
The lobbyists' proposal commits $500K for 200 recycling bins to be placed in locations around the state and to study the effectiveness of pay-as-you-throw systems. "Pay as you throw" (PAYT) systems have been in place in communities around the state and have long been proven effective at increasing home-generated recycling. However, PAYT has no measurable effect on litter reduction or on beverages consumed on-the-go.
"Funding 200 new recycling bins in the state is a joke. Cambridge alone has nearly that many," said James McCaffrey of the Massachusetts Sierra Club. "Bottle litter is still everywhere, and the city's recycling rate is only 40%." Containers covered by the bottle bill are redeemed and recycled at 80%.
"Their proposal is simply a decoy, and they are not fooling anyone with it," said Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG "The bottlers are fighting the updated bottle bill, but pushing some sham instead. A couple of hundred blue bins don't pass the laugh test when compared to the effectiveness and support of the Updated Bottle Bill. ."
The bottle bill update has been one of the most talked about bills on Beacon Hill. Legislators have received over 30,000 emails and postcards, thousands of phone calls, and frequent visits from constituents. Nearly 2/3 of the state's cities and towns have passed resolutions asking their stare legislators to support the bill, and a recent poll, conducted by MassInc Polling Group, showed that 77% of the state's residents support an update. "Especially since those these votes were in opposition to the wishes of their own constituents," added Domenitz
"The industry's offer will not make a dent in our municipalities' waste and litter costs," said Claire Sullivan of the South Shore Recycling Cooperative. "It's time for industry to share the burden with local governments. The bottle bill needs to be brought to the floor of both the House and Senate for a vote."
For more information visit www.massbottlebill.org