In the news

Statehouse News Service
Kyle Cheney

Advocates for updating the state's bottle recycling law to add a 5-cent deposit to juices, sports drinks and waters trumpeted support this week from 352 businesses across Massachusetts, including about 50 establishments in Quincy, where one of the key lawmakers vetting the proposal lives.

“We're tired of business as usual, seeing water bottles littered everywhere, when we could be recycling them so easily,” Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, a proponent of updating the recycling law, said in a statement Tuesday. “And we're tired of the big business lobbyists complaining about this bill. We're here today to show that small businesses, the backbone of the Massachusetts economy, support this bill.”

Backers of the law say adding a 5-cent deposit will give consumers incentive to recycle, saving cleanup costs for cities and towns and cutting into the hundreds of millions of plastic bottles that are discarded every year.

The state's current law, they note, was passed in the early 1980s and applied only to carbonated beverages. Since then, supporters note, flavored waters and sports drinks have proliferated without a corresponding change in the law. Opponents of the effort compare the deposit to a tax increase, argue that it will overwhelm businesses that can't afford to collect recyclable bottles, and will promote fraud from people who bring in bottles from out of state.

Some opponents have called for increased education about the benefits of recycling and investment in curbside recycling programs. Gov. Deval Patrick proposed updating the bottle bill to help balance a $32.3 billion budget he filed last month, but House Speaker Robert DeLeo's insistence that the House's initial budget plan be balanced without new taxes or fees appears to have put the brakes on the governor's plan once again.

However, supporters have said they're confident they have the votes to pass the proposal if it comes to a roll call vote in the House and Senate. Backers dropped a plan to take their effort directly to voters, contending they'd prefer to go through the Legislature.