Thursday, June 14, 2012
Bottle bill goes to study, again...
The primary function of the updated bottle bill is to include water and juice bottles in the bottle deposit system. Five cents deposit, five cents refunded upon bringing the bottle to a redemption machine or center.
Many believe that the deposit constitutes an additional burden on residents of the state. Arguments have been waged on whether or not the deposit is a tax because the Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, pledged not to increase taxes or fees during this two-year legislative session. I would argue that it is not a tax, however, the governor included $20 million in his fiscal year 2013 budget for unclaimed deposits related to the proposed updated bottle bill. That fostered opinions about the deposit not being a tax or fee but rather a gimmick, which the speaker also ruled out for this session.
Irrespective of where you come down on this issue, the realities of politics in the Statehouse settled into Hearing Room A-2 this morning at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, of which I'm a member. The updated bottle bill (actually a collection of several senate and house bills) was scheduled for a vote. The options were to put it to a further study ("yes" vote) or to let it die in committee ("no" vote). There was no option to vote the bottle bill out of committee favorably, a step that queues a bill up for a potential appearance on the house and senate floors.
Voting "yes" would keep the flame under the bottle bill, at least for the chance that there would be an effort made to study it in the context of bringing out a more comprehensive recycling bill next session. Voting "no" would kill it in its tracks, but could also be construed as a vote "for" the bottle bill. That's how tangled up things get here under the gold dome.
I voted to commit the bill to study, and articulated my position:
1) Every recyclable item should be recycled if practicable.
2) I practice what I preach.
3) The Town of Sandwich adopted pay-as-you-throw (PAYT), a program that has increased recycling by more than 50% and saved the town around $400,000 in its first year of implementation.
4) The current and proposed bottle bills create an additional stream of recyclable bottles that can be dealt with by a PAYT program or other recycling initiatives for less cost. That is, sending deposit bottles through a redemption process instead of straight to a recycler is a waste of time, fuel, and administrative expense.
5) The attractive part of the updated bottle bill is the fact that litter contains relatively few deposit bottles, and when it does, someone is likely to pick them up. Of course, bottle scavengers won't be picking up Dunkin' Donuts cups or McDonald's bags. We need a better way to solve the litter problem on a bigger scope.
6) I'd like to see a statewide effort to address recycling and litter awareness.