Wednesday, May 7, 2014

7 Reasons to Update the Bottle Bill

Decrease litter found on roads and in parks

Each year, about 1.4 billion containers are littered or thrown out in Massachusetts. That’s enough to fill Fenway Park to overflowing![1] About 1 billion of these 1.4 billion containers are non-deposit beverage containers.[2] In Massachusetts, non-deposit bottles are about four times as likely as deposit bottles to be found as litter,[3] and they are about nine times as likely as deposit bottles to be littered in our waterways,[4] where they are a serious threat to marine life. States that have bottle bills have seen a reduction in beverage container litter between 70% and 84% and a reduction in total litter between 34% and 47%.[5] An expanded bottle bill would help keep our public spaces beautiful and our wildlife safe and protected.

Decrease landfill use

While beverage containers make up only 5.4% of solid waste in Massachusetts by weight, they compose 15.2% of the Massachusetts waste stream by volume.[6] Most of these beverage containers are made of PET. In 2012, 3.87 billion pounds of PET bottles were thrown out as waste in the United States, and many of these bottles ended up in landfills.[7] These PET bottles take up a disproportionate amount of Massachusetts landfill space, using 9.8 cubic yards per ton compared to 2.75 cubic yards for “average landfill materials”,[8] and they never decompose.[9] Massachusetts is already running out of landfill space, and we currently export more than 1.1 million tons of trash to other states and countries each year.[10] An expanded Bottle Bill would significantly reduce the volume of waste filling up our crowded landfills.

Increase recycling

The Bottle Bill couples with curbside recycling programs to achieve a high recycling rate for deposit containers. While curbside recycling is useful for beverages consumed at home, the Bottle Bill improves recycling for beverages consumed on-the-go and in areas where curbside recycling is unfeasible, like inner cities, rural areas, and public places. Almost 70% of deposit beverage containers are redeemed each year under the Bottle Bill,[11] adding to the 9-10% of containers recovered through curbside recycling.[12] Overall, deposit containers are recycled at a rate of about 80%, while non-deposit containers are recycled at only 23%.[13]  The Bottle Bill works 3-4 times better in capturing bottles than the curbside program alone, making it a perfect companion to curbside recycling.

Create green jobs

The creation of a bottle redemption system in many states, including Michigan, California, Maine, and New York, has led to significant net job increases.[14] For every 100 jobs gained in recycling, only about 13 are lost in waste disposal and the extraction of new materials.[15] In 2010, Massachusetts’ payroll for the recycling industry was $498 million and included 13,905 jobs,[16] and a 2012 report estimates that updating the Massachusetts Bottle Bill would cause a net gain of 1,500 jobs in the commonwealth.[17] In particular, expanding the Bottle Bill would provide employment at the 150 redemption centers across the state.[18]

Conserve resources

The vast majority of the containers that would be covered under the update are made of PET Plastic, or polyethylene terephthalate, which is made of 99% petroleum. Consumers like PET because it’s lightweight, shatter-resistant, and re-sealable. Recycled PET plastic is primarily used for carpeting, upholstery, and Polartec-type fleece products – which are made right here in Lawrence, Lowell, Cummington, Waltham, North Attleboro, and Westport.

The current bottle bill diverts approximately 150 thousand TONS of material from Massachusetts dumps and incinerators each year, saving energy and resources. The deposit system has recovered an estimated 2 million TONS of aluminum, glass and plastic containers since its inception in 1983, saving an estimated 13 million barrels of crude oil equivalent, and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons.[19] It has also prevented countless of bottles and cans from being littered on the state’s roads and highways, parks and beaches.[20]

Save public funds

The Bottle Bill shifts responsibility for dealing with the waste from bottled beverages off of taxpayers and communities and onto the producers and consumers of the beverages. Under the updated Bottle Bill, bottlers and beverage distributors would pay an average net cost of about 1.5 cents per container.[21] Since this small cost would cut into bottlers’ profits, they are the largest opponents of an update to the Bottle Bill.

Reestablish the Clean Environment Fund (which supports environmental programs in the Commonwealth)

Under the updated Bottle Bill, all unclaimed deposits would go into the reestablished Clean Environment Fund to support environmental programs throughout the commonwealth, helping pick up litter, maintaining our parks, and cleaning our lakes and rivers.  It is estimated that the government would receive about $20 million each year through additional unclaimed deposits with an expanded Bottle Bill.[22]

[1] Massachusetts Sierra Club, 2014.
[2] Massachusetts Sierra Club, 2014.
[3] “Beverage Containers in Litter and Public Area Waste Receptacles”, report prepared for Massachusetts DEP by Recycling and Resource Management Consulting, Newton, MA, 2009.
[4] Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement survey, conducted at Charles River Cleanup, 2003.
[5] “Litter Studies in Bottle Bill States”, Container Recycling Institute.
[6] “Analysis of Beverage Containers Within the Massachusetts Municipal Solid Waste Stream”, report prepared by the Massachusetts Sierra Club from Massachusetts DEP studies, 2012.
[7] “Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2012”, National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), 2013.
[8] EPA Landfill Waste and Geotechnical Stability Report, BEAR, 2003.
[10] “Massachusetts 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan: Pathway to Zero Waste”, Massachusetts DEP, 2013.
[11] Sean Sylver, Massachusetts DEP, 2013. Reported redemption rate is the average of deposit container redemption rates from 2009-2013.
[12] “Executive Summary: Understanding Beverage Container Recovery”, BEAR, 2002.
[13] Container Recycling Institute, 2013.
[14] “Bottle Bills Create Jobs”, Container Recycling Institute.
[15] “Puzzled About Recycling’s Value? Look Beyond the Bin”, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1998.
[16] “Recycling Economic Information Study Update: Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania”, report prepared for Northeast Recycling Council by DSM Environmental, 2009.
[17] “The Impact of the Bottle Bill Update on Jobs in the Economy”, Sierra Club and MASSPIRG, 2012.
[18] “Registered Redemption Centers in Massachusetts”, Massachusetts DEP, 2013.
[19] Container Recycling Institute, 2009
[20] Container Recycling Institute, Jenny Gitlitz, October 25, 2005.
[21] Massachusetts Sierra Club, 2014. Handling fees, the amount paid to deals and redemption centers to process empty containers, would be about $75.1M. The amount received as scrap value from these returns is estimated at about $24.7M, so the net expense to bottlers is $50.4M. About 3.3 billion beverage containers are sold each year, so the net average cost per container is about 1.5 cents.
[22] Sean Sylver, Massachusetts DEP, 2013. Expanding the Bottle Bill would add 1.5 billion beverage containers to the number of deposit containers sold each year. 27.3% of these containers would not be redeemed, giving the state $0.05 per unredeemed container.

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