Clam the Vote: The Bottle Bill

Good morning, voters (and to a lesser extent, those shirking their civil duties out of laziness). I’m here this morning to continue our Clam the Vote series with question 2 this morning, otherwise known as the Bottle Bill. If you missed question 1 on the gas tax, read it here!

“Bottle bill” sounds like your drunk uncle’s nickname, but it’s a pretty interesting question.

The Bottle bill is basically this: We already have a 5 cent deposit on beer and soda cans and bottles. We’ve had it for 30 years. Back then, water bottles, sports drink bottles, iced teas, etc weren’t as popular as they are now.  But now, they are – and they aren’t recycled as much as bottles with deposits.  80% of bottles with deposits are redeemed or recycled, versus 23% of bottles without deposits (according to the Massachusetts DEP). That’s a HUGE difference.

The pro-bottle bill argument is easy to understand: the environmental impact of all these plastic bottles being tossed away in the garbage, or littered about on highways, is getting larger. With a redemption fee, there’s far more incentive to return the bottles – by the purchaser or by someone else who collects cans that have been tossed aside. Other parts of the bottle bill include re-assigning the non-collected deposits to an environmentally-based fund instead of the state’s general slush fund, where they currently go, and upping the redemption handling fee for distributors.

Folks on the pro-bottle bill side bolster their position by citing a study by the Massachusetts DEP that states the expanded bottle bill would save about $1 per resident of the state in litter cleanup expenses.

Those who oppose the expansion of the bottle bill are mostly bottle companies (who have put 8.3 million into fighting question 2), and supermarkets.  These bottle-collecting machines take up a grocery’s valuable retail space and they feel the extra deposit will eat into their beverage sales. As asn aside, I find it to be kind of gross and inappropriate that supermarkets like Market Basket are handing out political flyers against question 2, but what can you do?

The thing is, a supposed slight decrease in retail space (like, what, 10 square feet in a 10k+ foot store?) and a possible loss of a tiny percentage of bottle sales is not a good enough reason to oppose the expansion. There’s the angry “herf derf this is just a money grab for the state! People should recycle on their own!” Yeah, but they don’t. The statistics show that they don’t. It’s a money grab you can completely opt out of. And it’s necessary to keep all the freakin’ trash from us zoo-people off the side of highways and in parks and shit.

If it were up to me, it’d cover nip bottles as well, as this is truly a scourge plaguing our city.

can we just get a $1.00 deposit on these fuckers?

can we just get a $1.00 deposit on these fuckers?

This one seems pretty much like a no-brainer. Vote yes on 2, for fuck’s sake.

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  1. Agreed!!

  2. This is my picture of nip bottles collected during two short walks around the Ward II area. So, yaaaaaa I’m voting for the expansion and I agree, nip bottles should be included.

  3. My biggest issue with this question is the lack of real data. Cryptic numbers keep getting thrown around, but no real reference to how they were obtained. This article says “80% of bottles with deposits are redeemed or recycled, versus 23% of bottles without deposits (according to the Massachusetts DEP)” while the DEP site says “…80 percent are recycled – more than twice the recycling rate for non-deposit containers” which implies a rate of 39%? In other words, 23% vs 39%? Again how were these numbers collected? Why is this being hidden?

    The best numbers I could find is a study by the no-committee here: While I hate looking at fund-biased studies like this, I can’t find one from the pro-side with detail like this, so I have to question the pro-side data. What are they hiding? Why can’t they simply provide numbers clearly!?

    Still, I’ll agree, both are significant differences… so it shouldn’t matter. Fine, but if we do this and go further into the matter, even the DEP site says “Most of these non-deposit container beverages are consumed away from home – which means they usually don’t end up in curbside recycling bins.” This means the real problem is that people a lazy (duh) and that we don’t have recycling bins in public places… that’s the real problem. Fact is, looking around Gloucester, we often don’t have enough trash cans in public places, much less ANY recycling bins! This seems to be the bigger problem preventing littering,much less recycling. So,instead of solving that problem, we’re adding deposits to more containers? Seems like the wrong way to solve the bigger problem.

    I agree that the complaints from the supermarkets are lame – so let’s ignore those completely. My big issue with the deposit system is the hoops we have to jump through to get the deposit back. Instead of being able to recycle these items curbside, I have to make a special trip to recover these deposits. In the meantime, I have to store these containers perfectly-intact the entire time, otherwise the machines won’t accept them. Lastly, in many cases, you go to the machine and it’s full or out of service or whatever… which means I have to come back again later. All of this is a waste of time, space, and energy. I wish the new bill would address these issues as well, as I’d support it more quickly… but without this, it seems like we’re just taking a step backwards in this regard.

    I’m still on the fence for this issue, but leaning towards voting NO on 2 because:
    1) the expanded bill doesn’t solve the real problem (lack of public recycling bins)
    2) The yes-side seems to be hiding the data behind cryptic statements instead of showing real numbers and real data
    3) I already hate the hoops involved with the current system, and the new bill doesn’t address any of them

    I’d love to discuss this further with anyone here, or look at better data if anyone can point me to it!

    • This is the kind of comment we like to see! You bring up some good points here.

      • Thank you. I forgot to mention, the linked study shows (in the conclusions, p14): “the recovery rate, by weight, of all materials potentially subject to an expanded bottle bill was measured at 77.8 percent.” In other words, people with curbside recycling (the study doesn’t seem to include public trash cans) are already recycling non-deposit containers at similar rates to deposit bottles. Again, this means the problem is the lack of public recycling bins, not the lack of deposits…

      • I do agree that people with curbside are recycling at similar rates, and this has more to do with the change in consumer behavior around beverages, with the switch from soda to ‘alternatives’ like iced tea and waters. The issue is waste stream away from curbside and I couldn’t agree more about the public container problem. Anecdotally it does seem that one sees many, many more water bottles/non refundables than otherwise (nips also too). I would very much like to see better data, but honestly not until I get someone to tell me why a can full of Arizona Iced Tea should be treated differently than a can full of Diet Pepsi and same with Poland Spring v. Sprite. Whatever we do, why would we treat those differently? It would be like paying excise taxes on Fords and not Chevys. Or maybe sedans but not hatchbacks. Either way, that seems to be the major point.

    • The answer to recycling/trash containers around Gloucester is a larger issue, and one that comes up frequently even here on this blog. The point is who pays. I can tell you that no one locally is adding money for trash containers, in fact the Farmers’ Market, which brings thousands of people to town were recently threatened because their visitors used the trash containers at stage fort. Not the vendors, the visitors. Same issue at GHB, people pay 30 bucks to park and there is no where to put trash. In short, putting the financial burden directly on the user is the solve because 1) it works and 2) requires no direct increase in taxes or fees which pols hate. So there you go, but back to point 1- it works. There is no sane reason why a can of coke has a deposit of .05 and a can of Iced tea does not. It’s a fucking can. Same with the bottles. It’s the same product same waste stream. Either we have it managed municipally, and I look forward to your impassioned speech before the Council, or we deal with it via consumer/retailer directly. I invite you to guess which one has any chance of actually doing anything about the problem.

  4. And maybe….just MAYBE – the insanity of buying WATER (falsely marketed as “healthy” or sourced from a “spring”) from a SODA/SUGAR manufacturer will diminish. Everyone’s got a tap/faucet at home and at work. Get a grip. I cannot STAND buying bottles of WATER.

  5. Let’s all keep it bottled up inside—-vote yes

  6. The handful of can “collectors” that wander or drive around town filling trash bags are really hoping this one passes! Most curbside recycle bins will be emptied by these folks as it is their only income or a very good supplemental one. However, that $2.99 case of crystal geyser water at MB would go up to $4.19 and for that reason most folks are gonna vote no because they do not redeem the extra nickels from soda cans already. As a former “collector” ( took my wife on a carribean cruise with can money), I am voting yes.

    • I have no problem with the local “pickers/collectors”. Ad for the cases of water going up that much…a damn good thing. They might use their damn taps instead – and maybe a Brita filter if they don’t like the taste of city water (which, incidentally, I don’t).

      • Exactly. The trend of single-use water bottles is massively wasteful. I will still buy them occasionally for road trips or kids’ field trips, but I use a re-usable waterbottle for the gym and bike rides. Or drinking in public.

  7. “Or drinking in public.” …isn’t that what brown paper bags are for?

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