Massachusetts bottle bill
Text of measure
The Coalition for a Litter-Free Massachusetts provided the following summary of the proposed ballot measure:
"The ballot initiative, if passed, would update the current bottle bill (the nickel deposit on carbonated beverage containers) to reflect changes in consumer taste and beverage sales..."
The ballot measure makes three specific changes:
- Adds non-carbonated beverages (e.g. bottled water, iced teas, sports drinks and fruit juices). Dairy products, infant formula, FDA approved medicines, beverages in cardboard containers and juice boxes would not be added.
- Requires the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs to review the handling fee, the amount paid to grocers and redemption centers and make adjustments for inflation. (This is paid by the bottlers, not the public.) The deposit amount would also be reviewed and adjusted for inflation.
- Re-establishes a Clean Environment Fund to receive forfeited deposits.
The full text of the bottle bill can be found here.
About the current law
The Bottle Deposit Recovery Law was passed in 1982 and implemented in 1983. The law requires cans and both plastic and glass bottles of soft-drinks and beer to be returnable with a minimum return value, currently $0.05. Current lawa also establishes the handling fee paid by distributors to redemption centers, $0.0325 per unit as of July 5, 2013, and by distributors to retailers, $0.0225 per unit.
The full text of the Bottle Disposal Recovery Law can be found here.
Road to the Ballot
In May 2013, an overwhelming majority of the Massachusetts Senate voted in favor of the bottle bill amendment as part of the state budget. The bill was then sent to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
On July 3, 2013, the Massachusetts legislature passed the FY14 budget without the amendment to the Bottle Deposit Recovery Law.
On September 17, 2013, the bill was heard by the committee. Proponents and opponents of the bill were given the opportunity to testify.
On September 21, 2013, the Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill began a petition to have the amendment placed on the November 2014 ballot. The petition was required to have the signatures of 68,911 registered voters by December 4, 2013 in order for the bottle bill to be placed on the ballot. As of December 3, 2013, over 105,000 certified signatures had been gathered and the bill was sent to the Massachusetts Legislature.
The Massachusetts legislature failed to pass the bottle bill by May 7, 2014. Advocates now have until July 2, 2014 to collect 12,000 valid signatures or 22,000 total signatures in order for the bottle bill to appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot.
- Massachusetts Sierra Club
- Environmental League of Massachusetts
- Charles River Conservancy
- League of Women Voters, Massachusetts
- Surfrider Foundation
- Emerald Necklace Conservancy
- MASSPIRG Students
- Zoo New England
Seventy-six members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and 22 Massachusetts Senators have either sponsored or co-sponsored a bottle bill amendment during the 2013-2014 session. A full list can be found here.
Proponents of the bill argue that since the enactment of the Bottle Deposit Recovery Law, there has been tremendous growth in the consumption of beverages exempted. Since 2000, consumption of non-carbonated beverages has demonstrated near double-digit growth and now represents over 30 percent of beverages sold in Massachusetts. However, as these beverage containers do not require a deposit, only 23% are currently recycled, compared with a recycling rate of 80% for containers requiring a deposit in the 2010 fiscal year.
Additionally, because the current Bottle Deposit Recovery Law does not apply to non-carbonated beverages, these containers are three times more likely to be found as litter in Massachusetts communities. Additional studies indicate that beverage containers covered by the state’s container deposit system are redeemed at approximately 70 percent and another 9 percent are recycled via curbside programs. Conversely, containers that are not covered, such as bottled water, juices and sports drinks, are recycled at approximately 25 percent.
The bottle bill seeks to address the growing concern over the nearly 1.4 billion containers not covered by existing legislation that are currently found in litter and landfill waste. The goal of the initiative petition is to broaden the scope of beverage types requiring a deposit in order to be more responsive to current consumer preferences as well as to establish a mechanism for stabilizing the recycling industry by tying the handling fees paid to redemption centers to the Consumer Price Index.
Proponents also point out that beverage containers currently make up around 15 percent of the waste stream in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, updating the Bottle Deposit Recovery Law to expand the scope of coverage to include water, coffee-based drinks, juices and sports drinks is expected to increase the number of bottled recycled annually from 600 million (40 percent) to 1.2 billion (80%).
Proponents further argue that while the proposed expansion of the bottle bill includes provisions for both deposits paid by consumers as well as handling fees paid by industry, a portion of deposits paid are expected to remain unredeemed. These forfeited deposits are currently paid into the Commonwealth’s General Fund. Revenue from unclaimed deposits has been estimated to be around $34 million per year, prompting Governor Deval Patrick to propose dedicating $6.5 million of this new revenue to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection recycling and solid waste program. Under the proposed ballot initiative, the forfeited deposits would be directed to environmental programs.
Benefits for local governments
Proponents highlight the cost savings for local governments as well. A MassDEP analysis of the impacts of an expanded Bottle Deposit Recovery Law for municipalities found that such an expansion would save municipalities between $4.2 and $6.9 million annually in litter abatement and avoided collection, disposal and recycling costs.
Additional arguments in favor of an amended Bottle Deposit Recovery Law include job growth. A 2011 study by Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D., and Clarissa Morawski for the Container Recycling Institute found that expansion of the Bottle Deposit Recovery Law would result in net gains in domestic jobs.
No increase in cost for the consumer
Proponents argue that costs to the consumer will not increase. In order to address cost concerns by opponents to a proposed amendment, MassDEP conducted a survey in July 2011 to assess whether amendments to the existing Bottle Deposit Recovery Law might lead to negative impacts on consumer prices, choice and retailer costs. The results of this survey suggest that the amendment to the Bottle Deposit Recover Law results in no difference in beverage prices for consumers, no difference in consumer choice and that sufficient infrastructure and capacity exists to handle the anticipated increase in the volume of beverage containers processed should the law be expanded.
Opponents of the bill raise cost concerns.
- Massachusetts 2014 ballot measures
- Massachusetts State Senate
- Massachusetts House of Representatives
- 2014 ballot measures
- Massachusetts signature requirements
- Laws governing the initiative process in Massachusetts
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Initiative Petition Information Sheet Text of proposed amendment to existing Beverage Container Recovery Law
- Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill
- Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Commissioner Kenneth Kimmel’s testimony in support of the Bottle Bill Update initiative
- Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Bottle & Can Recycling Resources
- Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill: "About the ballot initiative," accessed October 29, 2013
- Mass.gov,: "300 CMR 400 Section 4.04: Deposits," accessed October 29, 2013
- Mass.gov,: "300 CMR 400 Section 4.05:REfunds and Acceptance of Empty Beverage Containers," accessed October 29, 2013
- Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill: "Status," accessed October 29, 2013
- Mass Sierra Club News, "State Senate Passes Bottle Bill Update," May 22, 2013
- Mass Sierra Club News, "Legislature Drops the Ball, Rejects Bottle Bill Update," July 3, 2013
- Worcester Telegram, "Ballot question backers deliver needed signatures," December 3, 2013
- Jamaica Plain Gazette, "JP Observer: Join JP activists to expand the Bottle Bill," May 23, 2014
- My Fox Boston, "Proposed bottle bill expansion could appear on November ballot," June 2, 2014
- Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill: "Supporters," accessed October 29, 2013
- Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill: "Sponsors," accessed October 29, 2013
- Mass.gov, The Official Website of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs: "Municipal Benefits of an Expanded Bottle Bill," accessed October 29, 2013
- Massachusetts Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill: "Background," accessed October 29, 2013
- Massachusetts Sierra Club: "Analysis of Beverage Containers Within the Massachusetts Municipal Solid Waste Stream," June 2012
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- Mass.gov: The Official Website of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs: "Expanding the bottle bill," accessed October 29, 2013
- Container Recycling Institute: "Returning to Work: Understanding the Domestic Jobs Impacts from Different Methods of Recycling Beverage Containers," December 2011
- [http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/bbsurv11.pdf Mass.gov: Department of Environmental Protection: "Comparison of Beverage Pricing, Consumer Choice and Redemption System Performance in Massachusetts and Neighboring States," July 2011]]