BOSTON (Aug. 25, 1:15 p.m. ET) — In 1983, when most places hadn't yet instituted curbside recycling programs, Massachusetts passed a bottle deposit law that helped combat litter and removed recyclable material from the waste stream.
Now, some state residents are saying the deposit law should be expanded, while others contest that it would only add shine to a worn out system.
If the measure is extended, “over a billion containers would be pulled from the waste stream,” said Greg Cooper, director of consumer programs at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Advocates such as Cooper say that the state's 80 percent return rate is proof that the law has worked and should be retooled to keep pace with a growing beverage industry and changing consumer habits.
The bill would extend the reach of the deposit law from a 5-cent deposit on bottles of sparkling water, soda pop, beer and other malt beverages to include noncarbonated offerings such as juice, water, iced tea and sports drinks.
But not all are pleased with the pending legislation.
At least 20 businesses, trade associations and unions have formed Real Recycling for Massachusetts to oppose the bill.
Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association and a member of the Real Recycling coalition, said about 90 percent of residents have access to DEP-approved collection programs that are more comprehensive than the bottle-focused approach the bill emphasizes.
Flynn estimates the new mandate will cost 10 times more than curbside recycling to maintain, and the current system costs nearly four times more, he said.
“This a very archaic approach,” Flynn said. “This doesn't make sense. We should be doing the most cost-effective and efficient thing” by expanding municipal programs.
According to Real Recycling, the bill would raise operating costs by millions of dollars, forcing businesses to lease and maintain additional reverse-vending machines. Storing more bottles would also take up more retail space, Flynn said.
Kevin Dietly, principal of Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants in Westford, Mass., said the financial impact would hurt consumers in the long run.
“The [proposed] expansion will cost $58 million to operate,” he said. “Somewhere along the line, consumers will pay $58 million more on their groceries. That money has to come from somewhere.”