Friday, May 23, 2014

State Senate Passes Bottle Bill Update

State Senate Passes Bottle Bill Update

House action uncertain, ballot effort continues

Press Release
May 22, 2014

After favorable words from both a Democratic and a Republican Senator, the State Senate yesterday approved a measure that would update the state’s nickel deposit, known as the bottle bill,  to include non-carbonated beverages like water and sports drinks. The law currently covers only soda and beer.  The update was passed as an amendment to the state budget late last night.

An update to the bottle bill has been pending in the state legislature for over 12 years. Over the past two years, the state senate has repeatedly voted in favor of an update, but the House has blocked the measure, preventing the bill from being brought up for a vote. With over half of state legislators having gone on record to pass the update, advocates are confident that it would pass the House as easily as it passed the Senate, if a vote was taken.

“Every poll shows that over three-quarters of the public support updating the bottle bill,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.  “I think our coalition has demonstrated that the only thing more popular with Massachusetts voters than the Updated Bottle Bill is motherhood and apple pie.”

After lobbying for a decade on Beacon Hill, advocates for updating the deposit system  have been gathering signatures to place the measure on the 2014 ballot. In September, they gathered over 130,000 signatures, nearly double the number needed, and more than the other proposed ballot measures.They are now gathering 20,000 more, as the last hurdle in placing the measure on the November ballot. Among the scores of groups and organizations collecting signatures are the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Arborway Coalition, the West Boylston Solid Waste Action Team, the Environmental League of MA, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, and MASSPIRG.

“Public support for an update to the bottle bill is huge, and has been building every year,” said Anne Borg, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. “People are truly tired of the waste and the litter.”

If the House also passes the amendment, and it’s signed into law, Massachusetts would catch up with Maine, Connecticut, and New York, all of which added more  types of containers to their deposit laws over the past several years. Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Marty Walsh, and the Mass. Municipal Association are among the longtime supporters of this measure. Advocates have pointed to the benefits of an updated bill, such as increased recycling, less litter, and an increase in “green” jobs. Soda bottles are recycled at nearly four times the rate of water bottles, and water bottles are nine times more likely to end up as litter.

“It’s high time to update the Bottle Bill,” said Phil Sego of the Sierra Club. “We’ve been pushing for this update for a long time, but the bottlers and big business lobbyists have been pushing back. We hope that the House will adopt this amendment. But if not, it will be on the November ballot.”

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