Bottle Law Expansion Dumped By Conference Committee

Jul 31, 2012

  Legislation to expand the 30 year old bottle deposit law in Massachusetts to include noncarbonated beverages won’t make it to the desk of Governor Deval Patrick this year..  WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

   The bottle bill expansion had been included by the State Senate as an amendment to a House passed economic development bill. But it was scrapped in a conference committee from the final version of the jobs bill.  The bottle bill was a major priority for environmentalists in this year’s legislative session, according to James McCaffrey, director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club

   Expanding the state’s 5  cent bottle deposit to include water, juices, teas and sports drinks would reduce litter and encourage more recycling according to advocates who have pushed for the expansion for more than a decade.

   Opponents of expanding the bottle deposit law argued it would increase costs  for grocers and bottlers that would in turn be passed onto consumers. 

   Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, which represents the grocery and supermarket industry in Massachusetts said the bottle deposit, as a recycling incentive is redundant.

   Bottle bill opponents in the House branded it as a tax, pointing out that the Patrick administration projected the state would pocket more than $20 million annually form unredeemed bottle and can deposits.

   The equation of a bottle deposit with a tax was rejected by no less an expert in taxes than Barbara Anderson, the long time executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. But, she still found another reason to oppose expanding the bottle law, claiming it would harm small grocers short on storage space.

   Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG says expanding the bottle bill enjoys broad public support and has bi-partisan backing on Beacon Hill.  She says its been consistently blocked by a handful of powerful legislative leaders at the behest of the supermarket lobby.

   The two year legislative session ends at midnight. Bills not acted on must be refilled by their sponsors with  the start of the new legislature in January 2013.