In a sign that the Updated Bottle Bill has more support on Beacon Hill than ever before, the final tally of cosponsors in the Legislature included the highest number the bill has ever garnered. When the official cosponsor period ended on Friday at midnight, the bill had a majority of state senators, a majority of freshmen, and a total of 95 cosponsors: 75 in the House and 20 in the Senate. “The fact that we have 10% more cosponsors in the House (there were 66 in 2011), and a majority of freshman (10 of 16), signals that this bill has more momentum than ever before,” commented Representative Jon Hecht, the chief sponsor in the House. “The fact that we have a majority of Senators cosponsoring this bill just underscores the message from the Senate—a body which passed the Updated Bottle Bill in May, 2012—that this bill would be the right solution for the Commonwealth,” added Senator Cynthia Creem, the Senate’s chief sponsor.
In the 2011-2012 legislative session, the Updated Bottle Bill passed through the Senate in May but never made it to the House floor before the end of the session on July 31. Meanwhile, advocates estimate another 1 billion containers ended up as litter, landfill, or incinerator ash over the course of 2012. “Every day this bill languishes is another day of littered parks, overstressed town dumps, and maybe most importantly, the public’s well-being ignored,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “We know how popular this bill is with the public; we need the Legislature to finally respond.”
Giving the measure even more momentum, on Friday, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan proposed an increase in the bottle bill handling fee. This handling fee (which has nothing to do with the 5-cent deposit) is what the bottling industry pays redemption centers, grocery stores, and other businesses for collecting and transporting bottles and cans for recycling.
For years, bottle redemption centers, small, family-owned businesses that are a key part of making the bottle bill work, have been asking for an increase in this fee, which has stood at 2.25 cents for over 20 years. As a result of inaction, many bottle redemption centers have gone out of business.
“Whatever the bottlers say about this proposal to raise their handling fee, the facts are important: consumers in the New England states that don’t have deposit laws (NH and RI) pay the same or higher prices for beverages that Massachusetts and other deposit law states (VT, ME, CT) pay. When the handling fee for bottlers goes from 2.25 cents to 3.25 cents as we hope it does soon, consumers’ prices should not change, “ commented Ken Pruitt of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “ The handling fee is part of what makes this successful law work, and raising the handling fee one penny is a small price for bottlers to pay for the cost of recycling the 3.3 billion bottles that the industry produces and profits from,” Pruitt added.
Mass Audubon Director of Advocacy Jack Clarke echoed Pruitt’s remarks: “We hope that EEA’s proposal, a welcome and necessary one, and the tremendous support from this year’s Legislature will give even more momentum to our coalition’s effort to pass an update to the Bottle Bill in the legislature. Containers without the 5-cent deposit, like water, sports drinks, vitamin beverages and iced teas, are becoming more popular, and creating more litter on our ball fields, in our parks, at our beaches. Updating the bottle bill, which would get that 5-cent deposit on these everyday beverages, would reduce litter, increase recycling, and save cities and towns money in litter pick up and disposal costs,” Clarke added.