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Editorial: Slow going on expanded bottle bill

A legislative working group is now responsible for updating Massachusetts’ bottle deposit law.

This seems to offer a chance — at long last — that the state will add a number of non-carbonated beverages to its nickel deposit system. That, at least, is better than in the past, when such a bill was bottled up in committee or left to go flat in the legislative process.

But this doesn’t mean getting an expansion of the deposit law is a sure thing — there remain plenty of people, inside and outside the Legislature, who are still skeptical about the positive impact the current law has had.

“I would assume there’d have to be some sort of expansion, and then the issue on the other side are costs (and) jobs, so is there a place in the middle there,” Rep. John Keenan, a Democrat from Salem who is the House chairman of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, told the State House News Service. Keenan has been an opponent of the bill. “As happens with any agreement, you don’t get everything you want, but you get a bill that works.”

We want to think this is true because Massachusetts should take the next step when it comes to expanding its bottle bill.

The numbers tell the story.

Consider that since the bottle deposit law was enacted in 1983, more than 35 billion containers have been redeemed, thus keeping them out of the waste stream or off our roadways and waterways. And yet, according to data gathered by the Massachusetts Sierra Club, about 1.4 billion containers are littered or thrown out each year here in Massachusetts. About 1 billion of those plastic or glass bottles and cans — such as iced teas, sport drinks, water — are non-deposit.

This reflects a changing marketplace, something the state’s laws should mirror.

Doing so would not just reduce waste, but also provide the state with an additional revenue stream, from those containers not redeemed, of an estimated $20 million.

The downside is that there will be more drinks sold to consumers that will cost an extra nickel.

But we think that’s a small price to pay, given the benefit to the environment and the savings inherent in reducing waste disposal costs.

We would like to think that the lawmakers working on the bill will also see it this way and legislation will be completed — and passed — before the end of this year’s legislative session ends at the end of July.

Yes, indeed, the bottle deposit should be at least a dime. A nickel in 1982 when the Bottle Bill was pased is worth 12¢ today, thanks to inflation. See: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=0.05&year1=1982&year2=2014. And the deposit should be extended to all beverage containers. If these two measures were enacted, our neighborhoods, parks, streets and rivers would be much cleaner, and there would be less plastic in the ocean. The The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee's designation of a legislative working group to study the Bottle Bill expansion is nothing but a smoke screen. The TUE has been charged with doing this job for more than a decade, but Speaker DeLeo says keep this bill bottled up in committee, so there it remains. We have paid for our state government through our taxes, but we cannot even get our elected representatives to vote on the Bottle Bill expansion. Unfortunately, the legislature is more interested in catering to special interests in the beverage industry than doing the People's business, so we have to take matters into our own hands with a ballot initiative in November.

Paul, can that be done to make all raises for any employee that is paid out of tax money to be voted upon by voters?

I have been in many states over the past few years. I think the nickel should be raised to a dime or even a quarter. This should be done on all beverages(including wine and hard liquor) less than a gallon or a half gallon. When I was in Arkansas even the highways had no litter which was amazing. NJ and Ms. were filthy with litter and beverage containers. You do get the deposit back when you turn in the containers. When you make the cost prohibitive to toss it will keep the land cleaner. Think of it like the tax on smokes.

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