EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 19, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — State needs more recycling, not higher bottle tax

To the editor:

Local businesses and consumers have reason to be concerned about the Patrick administration’s efforts to raise the bottle bill handling fee – a fee paid by bottlers and wholesalers to redemption centers – from 2.25 cents to 3.25 cents per container.

This fee applies to bottles and cans redeemed under the Massachusetts bottle bill, which charges an additional 5 cents for beer and soda products.

This proposed handling fee increase will cost beverage companies an additional $14 million, placing industry jobs at risk and raising prices for consumers, all while being entirely ineffective as an environmental policy. Furthermore, by moving to raise the handling fee through a regulatory procedure, the administration would send millions of dollars to bottle redemption centers, hurt jobs and impact consumers – without any real public input.

This proposed handling fee increase is not a recycling solution at all, but a new tax on the beverage industry and its consumers. While costing money, this new tax will also prop up an outdated bottle redemption system that should be abandoned to better utilize municipal recycling programs that accept all recyclable materials.

The bottle bill was enacted 30 years ago to encourage roadside clean-up. Since then, municipal recycling systems have become pervasive throughout the commonwealth and continue to grow, making the bottle-redemption system redundant and inefficient. Redeeming bottles and cans does not target the entire waste stream, and cities and towns never recover the material value of the aluminum and plastic.

Massachusetts communities can see real recycling gains for all recyclable materials through numerous measures, including: curb-side pick-up, single-stream recycling, every-week pick-up, pay-as-you-throw, mandatory recycling, and central drop-off for condominiums and businesses, among others. These measures are more convenient for residents and have proven to be successful in Massachusetts. Towns that participate in this kind of expansion enjoy the rewards of lower expenses in both reduced solid waste tonnage (more diversion to recycling) and in recycling (more income from resale value of recyclables).

When it comes to actual recycling reform, Massachusetts food and beverage companies have taken a leadership role. Last year, the industry launched the Massachusetts Recycling Challenge to create recycling pilot programs in 20 Massachusetts communities. These communities will receive funding as well as assistance from environmental consultants in adopting programs that incentivize residents to reduce the overall community waste stream through more active household recycling. The Recycling Challenge will also fund about 200 on-the-go recycling receptacles to be placed in high-visibility areas in target communities.

The Massachusetts Recycling Challenge focuses on finding long-term solutions to increasing the state’s recycling rate by targeting the entire waste stream, and it builds on systems that are convenient for families and have proven to be effective. Raising the handling fee and prolonging an outdated bottle redemption law will be costly and won’t create the kind of lasting recycling improvements that our state needs.

Our state needs to look forward when it comes to recycling. Comprehensive, convenient municipal systems are the way forward to meaningful environmental benefits.

Mike Elmer


Director of Capabilities, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England

Massachusetts Beverage Association

U.S. must steer clear of Syria

To the editor:

The increased calls for military intervention in Syria are short-sighted. Notwithstanding the valid humanitarian argument and seizing upon a chance to undermine Iran, I oppose such action as more pressing strategic goals — engaging China, deficit reduction, increased domestic oil and gas exporting, the Pacific Rim and robust intelligence analysis — are exponentially more important.

President Obama has made errors (the “red line” comments come to mind). However, his “go-slow” attitude is wise. Historically interventions prove politically risky and thankless. Today’s “Why aren’t you doing anything?” are tomorrow’s “What the hell did you just do?”

With three out of five Americans opposing intervention (even if wide-scale chemical weapons are deployed by al-Assad) it’s clear post Iraq and Afghanistan America is weary. A war without the public will is felonious stupidity.

In spite of my respect for Sen. John McCain, he seems delusional thinking that a Libyan/Bosnian-like quick fix is achievable via air power. The density of Syrian air defenses, disbursement of WMD stores in civilian populations, and numerous tactical and political differences insure zero chance of a quick, bloodless solution.

Pentagon estimates cite 75,000 troops necessary to secure WMD sites alone — even McCain opposes this. Add a huge U.S. air and logistical component to the reality of 4 million refugees and we have mission creep on a grand scale. No thanks.

Also, the vast majority of the rebels are being killed by means other than aircraft. So what do we do post no-fly when civilians continue to die at a rate of 100 per day? This is to say nothing of a deeply divided, largely Islamic opposition pouring in from the region.

Already they’re fighting one another. This civil war within a civil war has gone regional. What’s our exit strategy? Is one even possible?

State failure is dangerous, but in this war of attrition, the state has already failed. Al-Assad’s best hope is a tenuous Alawite enclave south of Homs. The recent U.S. centralization of rebel commands, real-time intelligence sharing and humanitarian supplies, that constitute government services by proxy, are better options that are turning the tide.

Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and, most especially, Saudi Arabia (already locked in an intense regional power struggle with Iran) have more acute concerns and the responsibility to act decisively. Their survival may depend on it.

Obviously, there are no good options. Likely, the outcome will be horrific. However U.S. policy makers must resist pressure to intervene in lieu of higher-priority, long-term strategic foreign policy goals that promise greater gains for our economy, security and international relations.

Ralph T. Basiliere