EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

May 4, 2014

Voters may expand bottle bill if Legislature won't

Lawmakers' hesitance to approve bill's expansion may land issue on ballot

BOSTON — Melissa Cruz feeds crumpled plastic bottles one by one into the recycling machine as a digital readout tallies her refund.

Behind her, inside the cramped redemption center next to Market Basket in Salem, Mass., others wait with large plastic bags full of soda, malt beverage and sparkling water containers.

“This is about a month’s worth of recycling,” said Cruz, 27, as the machine spit out a receipt for $17.10 that she’ll redeem at the supermarket. “It helps with groceries and it’s good for the environment. So I guess it’s worth the hassle.”

The scene is played out across Massachusetts every day and suggests consumers are still willing to go through the rigmarole of sorting recyclables, when they’re getting back five cents per bottle or can.

Environmental activists are banking on it as they make yet another push on Beacon Hill to expand the types of containers covered by Massachusetts’ bottle bill to include non-carbonated beverages such as water, tea and sports drinks.

But critics, especially those in the Merrimack Valley, say expanding the law would drive even more business to New Hampshire, which does not require a deposit even on beer or soft drink bottles and cans. It is the only state in New England without a bottle bill.

Senate and House lawmakers are trying to negotiate a compromise on the contentious issue, with the end of the legislative session of July 31 ticking closer. Similar efforts in the past, even with the support of Gov. Deval Patrick, have gotten nowhere.

Supporters of an expanded bottle bill are taking nothing for granted. They’re gearing up to gather sufficient signatures to put the issue before voters on the November ballot. They need to collect another 12,000 names before a July deadline.

Janet Domenitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, is helping to lead the charge. She said a broader bottle bill would increase recycling, reduce roadside litter, and cut down on the amount of waste going into municipal trash incinerators and landfills.

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