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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

What’s up with the bottle bill?

Bottle Bill

The Massachusetts Bottle Bill was first passed in 1983, due to the work of MASSPIRG students. The bill focuses on carbonated beverages, but does not currently focus on the rest of the bottles that have appeared since then. For the last ten years, MASSPIRG and other groups have pushed for an updated bill to support these new bottles. The issue has never come to the floor in the House, so this year, they started a new campaign. MASSPIRG Students, along with the Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, and more, have been collecting signatures to get the updated Bottle Bill onto the 2014 ballot.

This new campaign is a ballot initiative. The goal was to collect 100,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. MASSPIRG students vowed to collect 30,000 signatures for the campaign. The University of Massachusetts Boston chapter vowed to get 3,000 of those signatures. The petition drive launched on Sept. 19.

“As a coalition, we collected over 128,000 signatures from all across the state. MASSPIRG Students collected over 31,000 of those,” says Sam Gibb, Organizing Director for MASSPIRG Students. UMass Boston, too, surpassed their goal of 3,000 signatures collected.

Despite the successful petition drive, there is still opposition to updating the Bottle Bill. “A forced deposit-redemption system is a cumbersome, uneconomical approach to recycling,” says  Michael DeFeo, Vice President of Coca-Cola Bottling New England. Coca Cola and other businesses oppose an updated bill, saying that it is expensive and would take away from other recycling programs like curbside recycling.

Opponents to the bill say it would cost bottling companies by needing to hire more workers and set aside more space for warehouses. Consumers and other retailers would also suffer. Consumers would have to sort the bottles and then bring them to redemption centers while retailers would have to dedicate resources to create redemption centers. They also say that recycling programs have grown more comprehensive in the years since the first Bottle Bill, so there is no need for an updated version.

Emma Caldwell, the MASSPIRG campus organizer for UMass Boston, however, thinks otherwise, saying “I think that the Bottle Bill initiative is important for MASSPIRG and Massachusetts for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that it works well. The second is that it’s a good opportunity for students to get involved with the government–really unique opportunity.”

Advocates of the Bottle Bill cite successful programs in other states like New Hampshire and California. Though curbside recycling is also successful, advocates say that it is not available everywhere. They claim that the two programs are not mutually exclusive and the programs can in fact coexist. And while it has been said that a deposit-redemption system may initially be more expensive, advocates claim that it is more effective. The cost ultimately falls on the producer and consumer, not the government, making it not tax worthy.

Though the debate goes on, come next November, the question will be up for the voters to decide.