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Consumer & Green Groups: Take Back Effort to Replace Bottle Deposits

A proposal to end the state's 5-cent refundable bottle deposit law is drawing fire from consumer and environmental advocates. (SMG)
A proposal to end the state's 5-cent refundable bottle deposit law is drawing fire from consumer and environmental advocates. (SMG)
March 30, 2016

BOSTON - It's in the early stages, but a bill pending this legislative session is of major concern to Commonwealth consumer and environmental advocates.

At issue is a measure supported by the beverage industry that would eliminate the 5-cent refundable bottle deposit paid by retailers and wholesalers, and replace it with a 1-cent per container fee.

Janet Domenitz, executive director of Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), says the first problem with the proposal is that Gov. Charlie Baker has already said new fees and taxes are off the table this session. Next, she says it would only be a 3-year fee and the beverage industry would no longer be held responsible.

"It divorces the bottlers and the supermarkets from having any part of recycling," says Domenitz. "So it's just, you know, a bad idea times three."

Supporters of the measure say the fee would help towns and cities fund modernization of recycling programs, but Domenitz says it simply lets the industry off the hook and would leave the Commonwealth buried under a ton of trash.

She calls the 33-year-old deposit law the single most effective tool the state has to keep communities clean.

The industry says the fee could move the state towards single-stream recycling, meaning consumers would no longer have to sort bottles and cans.

But Domenitz says if the 5-cent deposit is eliminated, there will be no revenue stream for recycling down the road.

"It's temporary. It's a 3-year tax, and then it goes away," she says. "So the idea is. this is supposed to generate money for recycling, but it's gone after three years. So that makes no sense whatsoever."

The measure was advanced by the Legislature's Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, and Domenitz has questions about the way that happened.

"We haven't even seen the vote count," she says. "I mean this is supposed to be a public process, but none of us can get an accounting of who voted which way. So, that gives you an indication right away of the process being questionable."

The measure is HB 646.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA