Since the Massachusetts Bottle Bill became law in 1982, dramatic changes have occurred in the beverage market. Sales of "new" beverages such as juices, iced tea, sport drinks, and bottled water have vastly increased. Because the Bottle Bill does not yet cover these drinks, millions of these containers wind up as litter or in our landfills and incinerators, costing cities and towns money in expensive disposal fees.
The public benefit from the Bottle Bill is clear + and support for it is as strong as ever. A poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group in 2011 showed 77% support for updating the bottle bill. As of the beginning of 2012, 206 cities and towns in MA had passed resolutions in support of the update. Despite overwhelming public support, powerful special-interest lobbyists are blocking progress on Beacon Hill. Here are some of their claims, and the facts which refute them: CLAIM: Food prices will increase.
FACT: If this is passed, retail prices will NOT go up: This is exactly what the bottlers said in 1983 + and they are still saying it today.. However research shows that this claim is fiction. A wide ranging 2011 report[i] from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection debunked a range of industry assertions. Their report concluded that prices are typically the same in bottle bill and non-bottle bill states. It also showed that, despite industry claims that consumer choices would decrease, variety was solely dependent on store size.
CLAIM: The Bottle Bill is a tax on consumers.
FACT: The Bottle Bill is not a tax. The 5c deposits are 100% refundable. Those who do not redeem their containers make a voluntary choice not to do so, and taxes are not voluntary.
CLAIM: We don't need a Bottle Bill now that communities have curbside recycling programs.
FACT 1: States without Bottle Bills have only ~ 22% recycling rate of beverage containers, while states with a Bottle Bill typically have an 80+% redemption/recycling rate.[ii]
FACT 2: The bottling industry perpetuates an incorrect assumption that states must choose between curbside programs and deposit laws. Recycling data proves that both systems are necessary. Beverages are purchased and consumed both at home + where curbside recycling can be effective + and also away from home for immediate consumption. Beverages consumed away from home can be captured with deposits but are beyond the reach of curbside programs. Despite a tripling in the number of curbside programs in the U.S. from 1990-2000, the quantity of aluminum cans wasted increased from 554,000 to 691,000 tons a year, and the amount of PET beverage bottles landfilled and incinerated rose from 359,000 to 943,000 tons per year.[iii]
CLAIM: A Bottle Bill Update will hurt our economy
FACT: Updating the Bottle Bill will be good for the Massachusetts economy. Collecting the unclaimed deposits on the updated items will generate revenue[iv] to ensure funding for essential environmental programs + without imposing any new taxes. The updated Bottle Bill will save municipalities the cost of collecting and either recycling or disposing of these materials. Reductions in litter will reduce property damage and personal injury from broken glass and sharp metal cans. In addition, updating the Bottle Bill will create new jobs in the recycling and retail industries.
CLAIM: An Updated Bottle Bill will increase the price of bottled beverages
FACT: Although 5¢ is added to the cost of a bottle or can when you buy the beverage, it is fully refunded when you return it! If you choose not to return it, the unclaimed deposit is used to fund litter reduction and recycling programs.
Donald Dowd, Vice President of Coca Cola of New England, stated: "our prices pre-Bottle Bill and post-Bottle Bill are virtually the same."[v] A study funded by the National Food Processors Association found that soda in Massachusetts "costs roughly the same as soda in New Hampshire ...," and concluded: "One could argue that . . . having a Bottle Bill does not increase beverage prices."[vi]
CLAIM: Updating the Bottle Bill will create problems for shopkeepers
FACT: Massachusetts retailers and redemption centers already have well-established systems to handle deposit containers. Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) technology has already greatly reduced the amount of space retailers must use to satisfy their obligations under the Bottle Bill, and this technology can easily adapt to any changes in the bottle deposit law. RVMs read container bar codes and electronically record the type of beverage containers returned. The machines can be re-programmed to deal with new containers under an updated Bottle Bill.
FACT: The Bottle Bill Update includes an exemption provision for stores which are less than 4000 square feet.
CLAIM: Updating the Bottle Bill will harm municipal curbside recycling programs by removing valuable aluminum
FACT: The vast majority of the items included in the update are plastic and glass. It costs municipalities money to collect, process, and market recyclables. The savings to municipalities from removing these cumbersome, low-value materials from their recycling programs far exceeds the loss of revenue from sales of scrap aluminum. The purpose of municipal recycling programs is not to generate revenue but to provide an environmentally sound, cost-effective alternative to land filling and incineration.
FACT: About ¾ of the additional containers that would be recovered in an updated deposit system are currently being disposed in the trash or littered on the ground, at great cost to municipal governments.
CLAIM: There's got to be a better way.
FACT: If there is a better way to recover this valuable material from the waste stream, we'd like to hear about it. The most effective recycling programs in the world are comprised of curbside PLUS deposit. Systems that eliminate one or the other component are ineffective.
CLAIM: Fraud will cause the bottlers to lose millions
FACT: Buying a beverage in another bottle-bill state - or a non Bottle Bill state like New Hampshire - and returning it in Massachusetts, is considered "fraud". While some bottlers are unwilling to specify just how many containers are fraudulently returned, others like Coca-Cola are beginning to use the most obvious method to eliminate it: different barcodes in Bottle Bill states. This low-cost method virtually eliminates fraud.
[i] Available at the website of Mass DEP. http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/bottleca.htm [i] Container Recycling Institute [ii] Ibid. [iii] Ibid. [iv] Container Recycling Institute [v] Boston Globe Nov. 22, 1989 [vi] An Economic and Waste Management Analysis of Maine's Bottle Deposit Legislation, by Dr. George Criner, Commissioned by the National Food Processors Association, University of Maine, 1991.