After 14 years of being bottlenecked on Beacon Hill, the last thing a proposed updated bottle law needs is further study. The bill's exile to a study committee Thursday was not about "study" of course, but about killing it and pleasing the special interests that constitute the only opposition to the much-needed upgrade.
The reform of the 30-year-old bottle law would have added containers that hold water, sports drinks, iced tea and non-carbonated beverages, which have come to dominate a marketplace previously reserved primarily for beer and carbonated soft drink containers. By adding a 5 cent deposit to these new categories, the amount of bottles that litter roadways and clog landfills would have been reduced and unclaimed deposits would have provided needed revenue for the state.
The claim of the Massachusetts Food Association, the leading opponent of the bill, that the recycling system doesn't work is untrue, as we in the Berkshires see it working around us. The argument that the updated law would constitute a tax on consumers is defeated by the consistent support of the proposed changes in polls. Finally, the assertion that the increased volume of bottle returns would be a burden on businesses is the same tired claim made against the law in the first place 30 years ago. Businesses adjusted and did fine.
Advocates who rallied in support of the bill Tuesday maintain that the vast majority of legislators supported it but were denied a chance to vote. The bill's trashing Thursday is indeed "an insult to the public of Massachusetts," as MassPIRG executive director Janet Domenitz said, and a reminder that the cozy relationship between Beacon Hill leadership and special interest groups continues to thwart the will of the public and of legislators.