Group pushes for expansion of bottle bill

By Katie LannanSentinel & Enterprise

October 28, 2011

BOSTON — A group of environmental advocates — dressed as pirates, cats, and even Little Red Riding Hood — called on Massachusetts legislators to expand the state’s bottle-recycling program yesterday.

In a Halloween-themed push, backers of legislation that would add a 5-cent deposit onto the cost of bottled water, sports drinks and other non carbonated beverages, showed up at the Statehouse in costume yesterday to “trick-or-treat” throughout the building and share their views with lawmakers.

The supporters of the so-called “bottle bill,” including college students and members of environmental organizations, were brought together by MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, an organization that has been one of the bill’s main proponents.

“Updating the bottle bill means less litter, more recycling and saving cities and towns money,” said MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz. “That is not a trick. That’s a treat.”

The group visited the office of each member of the House and Senate, bringing with them a total of 15,313 postcards from constituents asking that their legislators support the bill.

UMass Lowell students Ryan Bichekas and Brooks Hubbard helped distribute postcards and information packets to area representatives.

“It’s really important just to try to help the environment,” said Bichekas, a senior studying political science. “It’s being pushed to the brink as it is.”

Bichekas, who joked that he considered wearing wearing a mask of former President Richard Nixon, who was president when the Environmental Protection Agency was established, said he believes the bill creates a necessary incentive for people to recycle.

The original bottle bill, passed in 1982, was the first statewide recycling program in Massachusetts. Retailers and consumers pay a 5-cent deposit when purchasing canned or bottled carbonated drinks, and consumers who return the bottles to redemption centers get their deposit refunded.

The original bottle bill, passed in 1982, was the first statewide recycling program in Massachusetts. Retailers and consumers pay a 5-cent deposit when purchasing canned or bottled carbonated drinks, and consumers who return the bottles to a redemption center get their deposit refunded.

The proposal to expand the system is sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, and Rep. Alice Wolf, D-Cambridge.

Sens. Jamie Eldrigde, D-Acton, Ken Donnelly, D-Arlington, and Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, are among the 80 co-sponsors of the bill.

Rep. Rich Bastien, R-Gardner, opposes the expansion and is the sponsor of legislation that would repeal the bottle bill entirely. Bastien said the advent of curbside recycling makes a specific bottle recycling program unnecessary.

“Having another duplicate process where people have to take their cans, put them in a plastic bag, and then have to drive to a convenience store to recycle them is not as environmentally sound as it seems,” he said.

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