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MASSACHUSETTS SIERRA CLUB
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BOTTLE BILL UPDATE
Updated Bottle Bill Factsheet
Since the Bottle Bill’s inception in 1983, over 30 billion containers[i] have been redeemed under the Massachusetts bottle bill, contributing to a healthier environment, cleaner and safer communities, and a stronger economy. But as consumers’ tastes change, the bottle bill must be updated to keep up with our times.
Who Pays for the Redemption System?
Just as they were 25 years ago, the bottlers and beverage distributors are the major opponents of an update to the Bottle Bill because they are the ones who fund the system - paying to clean up the impact of selling 2.2 BILLION deposit beverage containers every year. The fee is tiny - only 1.6 cents per container. [ii] Bearing the cost of a product's waste should be the responsibility of beverage producers and their consumers, not taxpayers and communities. The bottle bill is a model for this kind of sustainability.
How many beverage containers are currently littered/trashed in the commonwealth? Over 1 BILLION containers per year are littered or sent to our rapidly disappearing landfills - enough to fill Fenway Park to overflowing!
Unclaimed deposits currently provide over $37[ii] million annually in badly needed funding. Under the expansion, approximately $15 million in additional unclaimed deposit revenue could be generated[iii]. The addition of these items would be handled under the existing infrastructure for bottle deposits.
Keeping current with consumer habits
The original bottle bill was never meant to be unresponsive to changes in consumer behavior. According to former State Senator Lois Pines, the lead sponsor of our bottle bill, “Had anyone the slightest inkling that in a few years containers filled with water, iced tea and juice would compose 25%[iv] of the beverage market, I would have absolutely drafted the law to place deposits on these containers as well. At the time of passage of the Bottle Bill, the only other drinks were small cans of pineapple and tomato juice which needed to be opened at home with a can opener!”
Decrease Landfill Use
The more trash we burn and bury in the Commonwealth, the worse our environmental problems become. Fourteen towns have lost drinking water from contamination suspected to come from leaking landfills. Solid waste incinerators are one of the chief sources of mercury emitted into the air.
While soda containers are only 2.7% of the waste stream by volume, and all beverage containers (excluding milk containers) are 4.4% of the waste stream[v], these containers are approximately 1/4 the density of average municipal waste. making the environmental effects of container waste are disproportionately high. For example, beverage containers account for 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from landfilling a ton of solid waste and replacing the wasted products with new products made from virgin materials.[vi] Drink containers take up far more space far beyond their weight[vii], and unlike many other materials, PET bottles never break down[viii].
Recycling and Energy
Covering non-carbonated containers would be good for recycling industries. Most of the containers under the proposed update are made of PET, 99% of which is petroleum. Recycled PET bottles are primarily used for textiles and non-food containers[ix]. But even though there is a severe national shortage of RPET, less than 20% of all PET bottles are recycled[x] – and this percentage has been decreasing in recent years. At the same time, PET bottle usage is skyrocketing, as is the global demand for oil. By increasing the recycling rate for PET bottles, we are conserving our oil supply. In 2002, on a national level, 3.2 billion pounds of PET bottles failed to be recycled and wound up in landfills[xi].
Had the 3.2 billion pounds of wasted PET bottles been recycled in 2002, they would have saved the energy equivalent of 6.2 million barrels of oil.”[xii].
The Bottle Bill also complements curbside recycling. Recycling rates when these two programs are combined are far higher than either program generates alone. The Bottle Bill works in areas where curbside recycling is more difficult – inner cities, rural areas, offices, and public places. On a larger environmental scale, increased recycling means less pollution from the production of virgin materials. An updated bottle bill would increase the supply of recycled plastics, thus reducing the use of fossil fuels.
Requiring a 5-cent deposit on all beverage containers would decrease litter and increase recycling. States that have implemented bottle bills have experienced a 70-85% reduction in litter[xiii] and a 30 - 35%[xiv] reduction in overall litter after the bottle bill was implemented. In our waterways, non-redeemable containers are 9 times more likely to wind up as litter than deposit containers.[xv]
The public is very supportive of the bottle bill. In a recent survey, 84% of Massachusetts residents voiced support for expanding the bottle bill.[xvi]In 1982, an effort mounted by opponents to repeal the bill was rejected 93% to 7%. Additionally, Governor Patrick has expressed interest in expanding the bill to water-based beverages.
Jobs and the Economy
Gains in employment have been shown in nearly every state with deposit systems. In Michigan an additional 4,684 jobs were added to the economy. New York found that 3,800 new jobs were created in that state. Massachusetts and Vermont gained 1,800 and 350 jobs respectively.[xvii]
[i] Massachusetts EOEEA data, compiled by the Container Recycling Institute, 2005
[ii] Massachusetts EOEEA/DEP
[iii] Container Recycling Institute “Beverage Container Market Data Analysis, 2004.
[v] Glass beer and soft drinks bottles: 2.5%; Glass wine and liquor bottles: 0.8%; Aluminum beer and soft drink cans: 0.7%; Plastic soft drink bottles: 0.4%. From: Table 19, “Products Generated in the Municipal Waste Stream, 1960 to 2000 (with detail on containers and packaging)” in “Municipal Solid Waste in The United States: 2000 Facts and Figures.” Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (5305W) EPA530-R-02-001, June 2002.
[vi] “Energy to Waste?" Usman Valiente, Solid Waste and Recycling, April/May 2000.
[vii] PET takes up 9.8 cubic yards per ton as opposed to 2.75 “average” landfill materials, BEAR Report, EPA Landfill Waste and Geotechnical Stability Report, Feb 2003
[viii] National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) Executive Director Luke Schmidt interview, 2003
[ix] NAPCOR, 2002 Report
[xii] Container Recycling Institute
[xiv] Massachusetts DEP estimate, compiled by the Environmental Action Foundation.
[xv] Mass. Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement survey, 2003, conducted at Charles River Cleanup
[xvi] Center for Policy Alternatives, 2003 Policy Summary, Environment/Bottle Bill
[xvii] Container Recycling Institute