The Bottle Bill Debate

Today, the bottle bill was debated by the Senate as part of the Senate budget deliberations. It was offered by Senator Hedlund (Republican from Weymouth) as an amendment to the Senate’s budget proposal and would have expanded the list of redeemable bottles to include water, fruit juices, flavored waters, teas, and sports drinks.

There seemed to be a real possibility that the bottle bill might pass. Senator Pacheco chose to offer a substitute proposal, a commission, as an alternative to Senator Hedlund’s bottle bill proposal. Senator Pacheco’s substitute proposed a “commission to develop recommendations for promoting recycling and reducing the generation of solid waste.”

Because I have long been committed to supporting the bottle bill, I voted against Senator Pacheco’s substitute. I was one of 15 Senators to oppose the substitute; 22 Senators voted in support of the substitute amendment- but not until several Senators changed their vote to ensure the majority’s margin of victory, effectively killing the bottle bill proposal.

The passage of the substitute meant that we would not vote on the bottle bill as proposed in Senator Hedlund’s amendment. Instead, we next engaged in an up or down vote on the proposed commission. On this second vote, my choice was between no action on the issue and supporting a commission to develop recommendations for promoting recycling and reducing solid waste generation. At this stage, many bottle bill supporters voted for no action at all in protest. However, I voted in favor of the proposed commission, as it may focus useful attention on solid waste issues. 24 Senators voted in the affirmative, 13 in the negative.

Most senators on both sides were well-aware that there is strong opposition in the House of Representatives to the bottle bill. Given that opposition, to some extent, the whole debate was symbolic, but long-simmering emotions about the issue propelled a lengthy discussion led by Senator Hedlund.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

10 replies on “The Bottle Bill Debate”

  1. At this rate it sounds like it won’t happen in my lifetime. What’s the basis for the “considerable opposition?” Is it mostly responses to pressure and enticements from retailers and bottlers or are there downsides that go beyond their concerns?

    When I think of all those useless bottles of water consumers have been convinced they need it makes me want to tax them as well as any drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup. Any chance of that happening?

    1. Many individual members of the House have indicated support for the bill, but the most important single member, the Speaker, has opposed it. That’s the sense in which there is strong opposition to the bill. The speaker has viewed it as “tax” — it is certainly not a tax in the dictionary sense, but it is a charge to consumers that he has said he is not prepared to support.

  2. The Speaker should come to view the 4th of July fireworks on Memorial Drive in Cambridge — to see the MIND-BOGGLING amount of plastic water bottles that litter the area right afterwards. It’s truly shocking.

    And then, the DCR clean-up crew (in a hurry, so the road can be opened ASAP) is just putting all those bottles in trash bags, co-mingled with all other fast food trash — and off it goes to a landfill, or gets burned.

    Anyone in favor of the bottle bill needs to write/call the Speaker about it (assuming it’s not too late). If someone has his email or phone number handy, please post.

    Will, what can people do to make the bottle bill pass?

  3. Oops, I was so upset that the bottle bill ran into trouble that I posted my comment before I finished reading Will’s report on what happened in the Senate.

    So the bottle bill is dead, and there will be a commission to study some substitute measures — none of which I believe can be as strong as giving people a monetary incentive to recycle. Very disappointed.

    Still, many thanks to Will for his efforts.

    I wonder when the commission is supposed to present its findings/recommendations, and who will be on it.

    1. Although the Senate vote last week sends a clear negative signal, the bottle bill is not dead. The vote was a refusal to put a version of the bottle bill into the budget. The bill is still pending in the House. The House could still take action on the underlying bill and send it to the Senate.

      Were the bill to come to the Senate from the House, last week’s vote is not a certain indicator of how the vote would go in the Senate. A vote on whether to put something into the budget is not the same as a vote on the underlying bill — often people feel that a particular issue shouldn’t be addressed as part of the budget process, even though they might vote for it if it were presented as a standalone bill.

      Conversely, just because the Senate put a study into its budget, it is not guaranteed even that there will be a study — the House has to agree to that in conference on the budget.

  4. Mass PIRG has outed Ocean Spray as one of the corporations that is anti-bottle bill and has created an online petition:
    Here are my comments to Ocean Spray:
    I live in Boston, near Fenway park, and you can probably understand that my neighborhood receives a lot of litter from Red Sox fans. Thankfully there are people out there who pick up after them. They aren’t completely altruistic though. They collect soda cans and beer bottles only. They do not collect gatorade bottles, water bottles, or even ocean spray juice cans- much of the litter remains. Why? I know you already know. The 5 cent deposit! If we add a 5 cent deposit to all beverage containers, Massachusetts will be a much cleaner state.
    Please withdraw your opposition to the Updated Bottle Bill. The bad press that will come from your inaction is not worth it.

  5. The bill was sent to study today by the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. That means that it will most likely not be taken up further in this session, although there may be an effort to attach it to some other legislation.

  6. Will, you don’t seem to have anything recent on the Bottle Bill and there seems to be a flurry of activity this week. Are you attending the “Update the Bottle Bill” press event tomorrow (Wednesday, July 25, 11:00 AM, State House steps)? Do you think a large crowd is vital to its passage? Can’t decide based on the emails I’ve seen how important it is to juggle my day and make it to the State House. Will it make a difference?

  7. Thanks, Bonnie,

    The Senate leadership allowed Senator Hedlund’s bottle bill amendment through on a voice vote. So it is now part of the jobs bill before the conference committee. Given the clear position of House leadership on the issue, it’s unlikely that the amendment will survive the conference process. But that’s the focus now — seeking to influence the House position in that process.


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