Expanding Massachusetts' bottle bill would boost the state's economy $15 million to $26.5 million a year, according to a new study that recycling advocates hope will give a push to a bottle bill stalled in the Legislature.
The March 10 study from the Boston-based Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group said the money will come from growth in industries making products from recycled materials, reduced garbage costs, sales of recovered beverage containers, reduced pollution from the manufacture of virgin materials, lower public health costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The study was criticized by the Massachusetts Food Association, which said an earlier analysis it conducted found that expanding the state's bottle bill would cost $51 million a year.
The bill would expand the 5 cent bottle deposit to cover drinks that were not part of the original 1983 bill because they were not bottled widely then, such as water, juice, iced tea and sports drinks.
The proposal remains stalled in the Energy Committee, in part because of the MFA study last year. That report concluded that an expanded bottle bill would increase statewide recycling by only one-half of 1 percentage point, said Chris Flynn, president of MFA, also based in Boston.
The state instead should expand its recycling infrastructure since that is more cost-effective than a bottle bill, he said.
``That bill has an uphill battle at this point,'' said Steve Rosario, a government affairs director for the state government arm of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the American Plastics Council.
MassPIRG solid waste program advocate Jodi Segal said the bill is co-sponsored by 120 of 200 state legislators, the attorney general and the Boston mayor, and has qualified support from the governor.
``We're confident that in the long term this will be passed,'' she said. ``It took over 10 years to get the original passed. We were able to do that in spite of the special-interest lobbying.''
But a co-chair of the Energy Committee, Democratic Rep. Dennis Murphy, said in a televised interview March 10 that he did not plan to move the bill forward, Segal said. Murphy's office declined comment.
The MassPIRG study said the state would see benefits of $62.3 million to $98.7 million a year for the entire bottle bill, with as much as $26.5 million of that coming from new containers. The new materials nearly would double, by weight, the amount of material collected by the bill, to 160,000 tons, according to the study.
Massachusetts has a recycling rate of 85 percent for materials currently covered by the bottle deposit system, MassPIRG said.
MFA's study said that, under the current bottle bill, it costs $320 a ton to recycle materials, while the cost for new materials would skyrocket to $1,500 per ton because the new containers are more awkward to process. They vary widely in size and are distributed by decentralized systems, the study found.