Monday, December 16, 2013

Mass State Secretary Rules that the Bottle Bill Has Enough Signatures for 2014 Ballot

Boston, MA- With the Secretary of State’s office making it official, the Campaign to Update the Bottle Bill announced that its initiative petition qualified today with well over the required amount of signatures.  The top signer of the petition, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said: “This is an important day for the City of Boston and for the entire Commonwealth. The passage of this bill will help clean up our neighborhoods, expand recycling, and save cities and towns money at a time when we need it the most."

The Secretary of State’s office issued a letter saying the petition had garnered a total of 94,950 certified signatures, more than 35% of the required 68,911 to qualify. “While an initiative petition drive is never easy,” commented Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG, “collecting signatures for this bill, which is so widely supported by the public and so long delayed by the Legislature, felt like making a touchdown.”

The bill, which would place a five cent deposit on beverage containers like water, sports drinks, and iced teas, has been pending in the Legislature for approximately a decade. “So many people have called this bill a ‘no brainer’,” said Ryan Black of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, “because they all know what a big improvement this bill would be for our environment.”

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, a key organization in the petition drive, deployed members all across the state. “This issue knows no boundaries,” said Lynn Wolbarst of Sharon. “Our League members in Amherst and Gloucester are as enthusiastic as those in Martha’s Vineyard.”

The petition drive succeeded with help from many local and state organizations, including the Environmental League of MA, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and the West Boylston Solid Waste Action Team, among others.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bottle Bill Advocates Turn in Double the Needed Signatures

Press Release

Supporters of a ballot Initiative to update the state’s Bottle Deposit Law gathered on the steps of the Secretary of State’s office today to announce that they collected almost double the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

“From Salem to Stockbridge, from North Adams to New Bedford, we have signatures and support from citizens of every single one of the state’s 351 cities and towns,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “It’s hard to find someone who objects to reducing litter and increasing recycling.”

Although certification requires 68,911 valid signatures, the Updated Bottle Bill campaign gathered over 130,000 signatures, which is nearly double what is needed. “I carried two clipboards most of the time, to keep up with the crowds who wanted to sign,” said Andrew Fish, field coordinator for the petition drive and MASSPIRG associate.

The state’s bottle bill, the nickel deposit on soda, was originally passed by the state legislature over 30 years ago. The most successful recycling system in the state by far, the deposit covers only carbonated beverages, as those drinks were what was consumed when the original bill passed. Now water, juices, and sports drinks are rapidly taking over the marketplace, and there has been a sharp increase in litter of those types of containers. Recycling rates of soda bottles and cans, covered by the 5¢ deposit is nearly 80%, but only 23% of water, juice, and other non-covered beverages are recycled. Legislation to update the law has been pending on Beacon Hill for almost a decade. Earlier this year, supporters decided to take the proposal directly to the public.

This citizen-driven effort was spearheaded by a broad coalition of the state’s environmental, civic and advocacy groups including the Sierra Club, MASSPIRG, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the South Shore Recycling Cooperative, and the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts have been gathering signatures statewide. “We originally hoped to get 100,000 signatures, however we met with so much success and positive feedback, that we just kept going,” said Lynn Wolbarst of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

Now with 130,000 signatures turned in – more than 105,000 of which were certified by city and town clerks-- attention will turn back to the Legislature, which has several months to act on this bill before it heads to the November 2014 ballot.

“It defies logic, why the Legislature has sat on such a popular, common sense, and money-saving bill for so many years,” noted Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG. “Maybe this overwhelming signature drive will finally get the message to them to pass this bill.”
“Big business opponents have already started their ‘trash talk,’ calling this proposal a ‘tax,’” commented Ken Pruitt of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “The public isn’t going to swallow that nonsense.”

“It’s about litter and recycling,” added Ryan Black of the Sierra Club.  “There’s no other system that even comes close to having the same success.”

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