Industry Arguments Against the Bottle Bill
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! When opponents sponsored a ballot
question to repeal the Massachusetts Bottle Bill, it was rejected 93% to 7%.
Despite overwhelming public support, special-interest groups are opposed to
it, and have spent enormous sums in trying to overturn or gut bottle bills
throughout the USA. In Columbia, Missouri, bottlers outspent supporters at
In Hawaii, the industry created a so-called “consumers” groups, entirely
funded by the bottling industry.
CLAIM: The bottle bill is a tax on consumers.
FACT: The bottle bill is not a tax since deposits are 100%
refundable. Those who do not redeem their containers make a voluntary
choice not to do so, and therefore unclaimed deposits cannot be considered
CLAIM: We don’t need a bottle bill now that
communities have curbside recycling programs.
FACT 1: States without bottle bills have only a 20-30% recycling
rate, while states with a bottle bill typically have an 70+% 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 over $16 million[iv]
annually 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: Updated bottle bill will increase the price of bottled
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.
Updating the bottle bill 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
CLAIM: There’s got to be a better way.
FACT: 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: Sen. O'Leary's NJ-Style Litter Tax is more fair and will be
FACT 1: The bottlers' newest claim is that New Jersey's Litter
Tax is better than the bottle bill. In reality, NJ environmentalists see
this as a complete fabrication. The meager proceeds the proposed Litter
Tax would barely amount to $25,000 per year for each city and town. This
amount can not even begin to pay for cleanup, education, and other litter
control programs. In New Jersey, litter is at an all-time high, and
environmentalists are working to implement a Massachusetts-style Bottle
Click here to read NJ Sierra Club's comments on Sen. O'Leary's proposal.
FACT 2: Until three years ago, the Clean Environment Fund (CEF)
was the recipient of forfeited deposits. This fund - as well as hundreds
of other dedicated funds - were dissolved by the State Legislature.
Although still on the books, the CEF and all other dedicated funds like it
cannot be reinstated without specific legislation to allow them. The
O'Leary Litter Taxes "set aside" cannot be established.
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
Globe Nov. 22, 1989
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.