Bigger, Better Bottle Bill would reduce litter, waste and pollution

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State legislature considering update of landmark 1982 recycling law

BOSTON: A State House public hearing Wednesday to consider the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill drew supporters from across Massachusetts. They were clamoring for a cleaner, more sustainable Commonwealth, which would result from updating the state’s 40-year-old container deposit law, known as the Bottle Bill.

“This bill is an environmental trifecta. Not only does it support recycling, it also reduces plastic waste in our parks and waterways and reduces our emissions,” said state Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “It’s time we update the Bottle Bill to better protect the environment and create a more sustainable system going forward.”

When the Bottle Bill was passed into law in 1982, the vast majority of beverages on store shelves were carbonated, so the law only applies to carbonated beverages. With the explosion of what the industry calls “new age beverages” including bottled water, sports drinks, iced teas, fruit juices and more, most of today’s drinks are not covered by the deposit law, and most bottles become litter or trash.

“The bottle bill is the single most proven effective recycling tool we have,” commented the chief House sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Marjorie Decker. “We are missing the opportunity to increase our recycling only because the law predates the manufacturing of plastic containers like bottled water and sports drinks. Allowing these to continue to go to landfills and incinerators is a lose-lose for everyone.”

Massachusetts would have much to gain by expanding the law to include a wider variety of beverage containers. Massachusetts ranks dead last of the states with deposit laws, according to a recent report from the Container Recycling Institute. According to another recent report from Reloop North America: “In Massachusetts, less than half of all beverage containers are currently eligible for the deposit system. Updating the program to include bottled water and other non-carbonated drinks like juice, iced tea and wine or liquor containers could mean an extra 2.4 billion bottles end up in the recycling stream instead of a landfill.”

“Leaving the bottle deposit law ‘as is’ would be like using white-out on your computer,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG. “This important recycling tool is more than 40 years old, to make it effective in today’s world we need to put a deposit on water bottles and more.”

In addition to MASSPIRG,  organizations testifying in favor of the updated bottle bill are the League of Women Voters/MA, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Conservation Law Foundation, and Sierra Club/MA. The Massachusetts Package Store Association Director, Robert Mellion, also testified in support.

The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee will recommend whether the bills— H 3690/ S 2104 — “ought to pass,” or “ought not to pass” or to send them to a study.