To the editor:
This is a copy of letter sent to state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem. His committee voted recently not to take any action on an expanded bottle bill pending further study. The action effectively kills the legislation for the current session.
I know that you do many valuable things for the region and the state, and I appreciate that, but thwarting the will and wisdom of the people on this issue isn't one of them.
You present returnable bottle programs (the Bottle Bill) and recycling and composting and other efforts to reduce solid waste as though they were mutually exclusive choices. They're not; we should be doing all of them, and we can, because those efforts would reduce municipal and state operating costs that we — the people — already and ultimately pay for through higher taxes. In short, an operating cost dollar avoided is (or at least should be) a tax dollar saved.
The Bottle Bill does not increase the cost of food. Because the deposit is redeemable, it is cost-neutral to consumers. To the extent that bottlers and distributors avoid costs and strengthen already remarkable margins (look at Pepsi and Coca-Cola's stock history), by leaving consumers to deal with the waste stream from their products, we — the people — bear the costs.
You and some colleagues know the Bottle Bill is not a tax, but knowingly repeat the refrain to prey on sincere and well-justified fears of higher taxes. The Bottle Bill is only directly a "tax" on those who can't be bothered or who choose not to return their bottles — and that sounds fair enough to me. Lack of a comprehensive Bottle Bill is indirectly a tax on all of us for disposal and litter cleanup as noted above, and that is not fair at all.
As for concerns for smaller and mid-sized businesses, there has been nearly no coverage of two very relevant points:
First, the Bottle Bill exempts stores of 4,000 square feet or less (which covers nearly all local coffee shops, gas stations and convenience stores) from the requirement to accept returns.
Second, this update to the Bottle Bill actually seeks to increase the amount retained by stores redeeming bottles by 44 percent. But that is now gone, thanks to referring the bill to its 14th year of study. For 22 years, redemption facilities have lived with no increase above the 2.25 cents per bottle they receive for processing returns. Without this increase, some may well just have to close.
I laud the efforts by cities and towns employing pay-as-you-throw. Their recycling programs are dramatically successful.
Somehow, as in Portland, Maine, where I recently worked for 15 years, cities and towns have benefited from that pay-as-you-throw for years alongside a stronger statewide returnables program that even uses a 15-cent deposit on bottled wine sales! And I laud the very successful program in Hamilton and Wenham that now provides free compostable collection to keep all that 20.7 percent of our waste (your figure) out of the trash stream.
But those are not reasons to dismiss other programs, including the Bottle Bill, which all add up to very worthy savings.
I hope you and your colleagues will see (and in a timely manner, respect) the people's side in this serious matter.