Plastic Free Mass Urges Legislators To Fix Recycling System

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Just Zero, Be the Solution to Pollution, and other members of Plastic Free Mass are calling on legislators to update the state’s beverage container deposit return system (aka Bottle Bill), which remains unchanged from when it was passed in 1982. Under the Bottle Bill, consumers make a deposit of 5 cents on some beverages, which they can redeem when they return the empty containers for recycling. If the program were updated to include all beverage containers and the deposit were increased to 10 cents, litter would be reduced in Massachusetts by as much as 85%.

“Massachusetts beaches and waterways are choking with trash,” said CLF attorney Mara Shulman. “Across the state, volunteers are spending countless hours picking up litter. This is unsustainable. Updating the Bottle Bill will not only slash litter, but it will also reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time for legislators to meet this moment and stop relying on volunteers to clean up litter when a legislative solution is at our fingertips.”

“The data is clear,” said Kirstie Pecci, Executive Director of Just Zero. “Modernizing Massachusetts’ Bottle Bill will drastically reduce litter, curb pollution, improve recycling, and create local green jobs at no cost to taxpayers. But even better than that, Bottle Bills set us up to transition to refillable beverage systems. In Europe, countries are collecting, washing, and refilling glass bottles because they know that this is where we get the most climate impact. Massachusetts can be a regional leader and blaze the way right now towards a future where single-use beverage containers are a thing of the past.”

“Month after month, our volunteers return to the same beaches and rivers,” said Mary Lou Nicholson, coordinator for Be the Solution to Pollution. “In 2023, my group cleaned up over 3,000 pounds of litter on just 6 Massachusetts beaches. It’s a Sisyphean task, coming back again and again to clean up the same spots. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a better Bottle Bill, we would see litter in Massachusetts reduced by leaps and bounds.” 

Single-use beverage containers, a common source of litter, comprised a large proportion of the trash that resident volunteers cleaned up in Massachusetts in 2023. Massachusetts is one of 10 states in the U.S. with a Bottle Bill. But our Bottle Bill is sorely outdated. Not only does the deposit program include only 40% of the beverage containers sold in our state, but the deposit hasn’t changed from when it was established at 5 cents in 1982.

Legislators can stop this problem at its root by expanding the program to include all beverage containers and raising the deposit to 10 cents.

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