- Proposed legislation aims to replace the Massachusetts' bottle redemption system, under which consumers currently get a nickel deposit back on soda and beer containers returned to stores or redemption centers. The new legislation would eliminate this system, and instead charge distributors and wholesalers a three-year, 1-cent per container fee to support municipalities in implementing single-stream recycling and other waste reduction measures.
- The proposed fee would expire once about $114 million has been generated for recycling programs, which opponents of this alternative plan say would not come close to paying for proposed recycling initiatives.
- Initially residents were presented with a proposal to support an expanded deposit program, which had voters' support, but after an advertising campaign by the soft drink industry and supermarket chains who opposed the idea, voters rejected it by a 73% to 27% margin. The statewide redemption rate was 59% in 2015, down from nearly 68% in 2011, as reported in the Boston Herald.
Environmentalists argue that replacing the deposit program with a fee to wholesalers and distributors is a bad idea, claiming the current system is working to divert from landfill and reduce littering. They charge that the new plan is a "thinly veiled attempt" to relieve businesses from their responsibilities to recover the containers while taxing the environment.
But the beverage and food industry groups say the change makes sense; it would mean the industry and retailers would no longer have to process empty returns and file paperwork with the state, and they argue it would be easier on consumers.
"People like recycling at home. They like having that convenience," said Nicole Giambusso, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Beverage Association, to the Boston Herald.
Other proponents say Delaware received good results by replacing the refundable deposit system with a temporary beverage container tax to fund recycling, and that a redemption program is no longer necessary due to curbside recycling’s success.
That argument did not sell Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.
"What we have now is half a loaf and it's absolutely better than none," she said to the Boston Herald. "Anyone trying to take away half a loaf does not have the public interest ... or the environment in mind."
Domenitz wants to dismiss the refundable deposits model in six years only if at that time there is solid proof that this method is at least as effective as the bottle bill.