Like many other state coffers across the country, Massachusetts is a little short on cash. As part of his effort to raise money for the fiscal 2010 budget, the state's governor, Deval Patrick, has proposed expanding the state's nearly three decade-old "Bottle Bill" to include bottled water, juices, and sports drinks.
Having grown up in Massachusetts it always confounded me that bottles and cans of beer and soda could be returned for a nickel but that juices and Gatorade were somehow exempt (bottled water was yet to be the scourge it is today). But as the bottled beverage industry blossomed, so did the amount of plastic in the state's streams, lakes, parks and landfills.
Supporters of the bill say the current deposit program only covers two-thirds of the bottled beverages sold in the state. The remaining one-third, they say, is ending up as litter — and at much higher rates than returnable bottles.
The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) recently pointed to a random sampling of litter collected by volunteers at a Charles River cleanup that contained a ratio of almost 5 to 1 non-returnable containers to returnable (deposit) containers. The group also said they found similar numbers at other locations statewide.
MASSPIRG estimates that because the ration of deposit to non-deposit containers is about 2 to 1, that it is "over twelve times more likely that a non-deposit container will end up littering our waterways than will a deposit container."
Gov. Patrick's office estimates the state would raise about $58 million by allowing the redemption of an additional 1.5 billion containers a year, or about $20 million more than the state earns from the current law.
By creating a broader scope of coverage for the bottle bill, legislators hope the bottle bill will not only pay for the community services to clean them up, but that it would increase the state's recycling rates. Currently, about 65 percent of all bottles sold in the state are redeemed.
Massachusetts is one of just 11 states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont that require deposits on most carbonated beverage containers at the time of purchase; these deposits may then be redeemed when the empty bottles are returned.
The only other state [check] that has a state-mandated recycling deposit on non-carbonated beverages is Connecticut, where non-carbonated beverages are statutorily defined as water, flavored water and nutritionally-enhanced water, but not mineral water.
What, did Connecticut legislators had to make concessions to the powerful Perrier and Pellegrino lobby to get the bill through?