Mass. Seeks to Expand Bottle Bill

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Mass. Seeks to Expand Bottle Bill

BOSTON -- State senators are debating a plan to expand the state's 21-year-old "Bottle Bill" to include more types of beverage containers and to increase the reimbursement rates to retailers. The plan would broaden the types of containers on which deposits would be required to include non-carbonated beverages like juices, sports drinks and wine coolers.

Recycling advocates supporting the changes said the law simply needs to adapt to a change in people's drink-buying habits. "Our consuming habits have changed and we're seeing an immediate consumption trend," said Jenny Gitlitz, research director at the Virginia-based Container Recycling Institute. "People are more mobile. They are buying drinks at convenience stores, and are not taking them home but are discarding them on the premises."

Gitlitz added that because people are buying more drinks away from home and there is no deposit on bottled water and other non-carbonated beverages, people are far more likely to litter or not recycle the containers. Under the current law, a 5-cent deposit is added to a purchase of beer and soda, but other popular beverages such as bottled water or bottled lemonade are not included.

In addition to expanding the types of beverages that require a deposit, the Senators' measure would also slightly increase the fees paid by bottle distributors to retailers and redemption centers, which handle bottle collections. The fee would increase from 2.25 cents to 3 cents per unit, which supporters said would offset the increased volume of bottles that can be redeemed.

The measure would also give distributors an incentive to collect bottles by giving them a reimbursement of a fraction of a penny per unit collected.

Opponents have argued that expanding the Bottle Bill would hurt businesses in communities bordering other states that have no bottle deposit program.

"It puts us at an economic disadvantage competing with New Hampshire," said Sen. Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell). "People when they go over the border are not just buying beer and soda while they're there, but everything else." "Consumer cost is much higher for Massachusetts stores, and that drives a ton of purchases north of the border," said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which opposes the Bottle Bill. "You're also going to be dealing with illegal redemptions from non-customers coming south to redeem containers that were never sold in Massachusetts."

Hurst added that the Bottle Bill increases the operating costs for retailers through the expenses of storing and handling the bottles and for keeping storage areas clean. "We shouldn't be turning our retail stores into the local trash hauler," Hurst said. "Under this proposal, we become New England's dump. What we need is a sensible, comprehensive recycling program."