Saturday, November 1, 2014

Separating Fact from Fiction

by Phil Sego, Massachusetts Sierra Club

Since the campaign to pass Question 2, the Bottle Bill Update, began, consumers have been deluged with conflicting information. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked… is it really true that the bottle bill will cause ...?[i]
What exactly will the bottle bill do, and what won’t it do?

Very simply, passing Question 2 will extend the same advantages and benefits to non-carbonated beverages that currently exist for soda and beer.

1 – Passing Question 2 will help stop litter. The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife, Riverways Division has, on numerous litter cleanups, counted what they found: a non-deposit bottle is NINE times more likely to become litter than a deposit bottle. At these cleanups, deposit bottles were rare.

2 - Passing Question 2 will increase recycling. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for the state’s waste and recycling management. After numerous studies, they have stated that 80% of deposit bottles are recycled, but only 23% of water bottles are recycled. The rest become litter or trash.

3 – Passing Question 2 will save money for our cities and towns. Picking up litter and trash costs money, and this burden is placed on our struggling municipalities. Litter cleanup is costly, and between cleanups, our streets and parks are too often litter strewn. Half the litter is water and juice bottles. A study by Mass DEP showed that cities and towns would save $7 million every year if we enact the bottle bill update. voters need to know: Out-of-state Big Beverage Companies have put $9 million into defeating Question 2. Rather than telling consumer that they simply want to sell more beverages at higher profits, they’re conducting a campaign of disinformation. Investigative journalists around the state have repeatedly caught them lying in their ads, and the “no” side has been forced to change them. You can decide if they have any credibility left.

On the YES side are respected non-profits like the Sierra Club, Mass Audubon, and League of Women Voters MA, and 100 environmental and non-profit organizations. On the ‘no’ side are Big Beverage companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Polar, Nestle, the big supermarkets, and the trash haulers.

CLAIM: This will cost consumers $20-40-60-100 million.
TRUTH: The bottlers’ claims have changed daily, and they even changed them during a debate.[ii] This is just another example of their effort to mislead voters with scare tactics. The TRUTH is that when ME, NY, CT, OR and CA updated their bottle bills, the bottlers also predicted huge cost increases, which never happened. The reality is that DEP found that beverage costs were actually higher in NH – which has no BB than in Maine, which has the biggest BB. The error-ridden ‘financial impact report’ paid for published by the beverage industry claimed still another amount. Big Beverage paid off a professor $7 to rubber stamp it. The ‘no’ side has openly rejected all Federal, State, and exiting industry data and substituted a new set paid for by the Big Beverage industry.

CLAIM: Cities and towns will lose valuable materials
TRUTH: The Massachusetts DEP reports that cities and towns will save up $7 million in litter cleanup, even taking into account any losses from the sale of recyclables. As a result, we’ll have cleaner parks, cleaner streets, and cleaner ballfields. We’ll have cleaner municipalities, with parks that people can be proud of.
[stops litter]

CLAIM: It’s only 1/2%, 1/8%, or 1/12% of the waste stream
TRUTH: On one hand, our opponents are claiming that it’s a tiny percentage of the waste stream, and their numbers change daily. On the other they’re claiming that it’s SO HUGE that our trash rates will skyrocket. The real number, according to DEP’s reports, is about 12% by volume. Anyone who’s been to a landfill will verify that as an obvious fact.

CLAIM: This is an old law
TRUTH: Old laws are bad? Like the Bill of Rights, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act? This makes no sense; it’s simply the result of a focus group response. Old laws are as valid as new laws, perhaps even more so.

CLAIM: The bottle bill is a tax
If so, where can I get a refund on my income and property taxes? You can get your nickels back at just about any store or redemption center in the state. A deposit and a tax are very different, and this deposit is 100% refundable.
CLAIM: The inflation escalator clause is “taxation without representation.” TRUTH: Veteran’s benefits and social security are examples of the use of inflation indexing. There are well over 10,000 government payments, charges, deposits, and fees that are stated as percentages of adjusted to the consumer price index. These are adjusted by state regulatory agencies and not the legislature. It’s preposterous to believe that the state legislature can or should review the thousands of payments, charges, deposits, and fees on an annual basis. But voters need to know that they will always get 100% of their deposit back. By the year 2050, when a 20-ounce bottle of Coke is projected to cost $3.80, the deposit will only be a dime.

CLAIM: People already have curbside which is easier
Curbside recycling is great – if you never leave your home. But people do leave, and since 75% of these beverages are consumed on-the-go, they’re out of the reach of curbside. That’s why only 23% of non-deposit bottles are recycled vs. 80% of nickel deposit bottles.

Voters need to know…

What’s really important is that the bottle bill is the best proven recycling system for bottles and cans by far. The bottle bill gets 80% of nickel deposit containers. This is many more times as effective as curbside, which recycles only 23%. You have to be really bad at math to think that 23% is better. Litter cleanups prove that a water bottle is nine times more likely to become litter than a deposit bottle.

Litter cleanup is expensive, stopping it before it happens is best. And studies prove that a non-deposit bottle is 9X more likely to become litter than one with a nickel deposit.  We want clean parks, beaches, streets, and ballfields. When tourists come to our beautiful state, they always comment on how litter strewn it is.

On one side are 100 environmental and non-profit organizations, like the Sierra Club, LWVMA, Audubon, and every enviro org in the state. It’s also supported by Governor Patrick, Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, over a hundred elected leaders, and 210 cities and towns. On the other is the out-of-state big beverage companies and people they’ve paid to do their bidding.

[i] Will the Bottle Bill Cause Earthquakes is a parody written in 1982 by marketing guru Ken Swope for our first campaign to pass the bottle bill. The industry arguments were as silly then as they are now. Visit
[ii] MassRecycle Oct 28, 2014. The opponents stated $60, $68, and 100 million