MassPirg’s blitz campaign gains support for recycling bill

By Nancy Pierce

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In an attempt to change state legislation so water bottles, juice bottles and sports drinks have the same five-cent deposit that soda bottles, beer and other carbonated drinks have, MassPirg is currently organizing a blitz campaign to collect 2,000 signatures by 10 p.m. tonight petitioning the legislature to update the Bottle Bill.

Hannah Cohen/Collegian

Hannah Cohen/Collegian

MassPirg, a University of Massachusetts student organization that works towards environmental and political goals, hopes to collect 3,000 signatures by the end of the month.

The Bottle Bill, which was put into effect in 1982, charges consumers a five-cent deposit on beer, malt and soft carbonate beverage that is redeemable when the bottle is recycled. MassPirg hopes that the state will expand the legislation to cover more bottles.

MassPirg Campus Organizer Isabelle Goodman said they received 800 signatures on Tuesday, 800 on Monday and 1,000 earlier in the semester which puts them at around 2,600 signatures in total.

Kyle Sullivan, the media coordinator for the campaign, described the bottle bill as the most effective piece of legislation in Massachusetts for environmental policy regarding recycling.

He said the motive behind the petition is to update the bill to include more containers redeemable for the five-cent deposit. He said the many of the containers not included in the bottle bill were not present in the market when the bill was passed in the ‘80s.

According to Sullivan, 80 percent of containers that have the five-cent deposit get recycled and while only 22 percent of containers that do not have the five-cent deposit get recycled.

Sullivan said that the containers that are not being recycled because of their exclusion from the bill are adding to the toxic waste in the environment. Additionally, he said many plastics are being incinerated instead which he said releases carcinogens into the atmosphere.

We’re just talking about bottles, but when we get down to it it’s about our quality of living,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said this issue is seen as relatively unimportant by some congressmen but he thinks a petition with a lot of support could serve as motivation for change.

He said they are also looking to provide people with more of an incentive to recycle because “people in today’s economy need extra money.”

The campaign to updated the Bottle Bill is also attempting to put responsibility on corporations for their products out in the market even after they have been consumed, according to Sullivan.

According to Savanna Van Leuvan-Smith, the campaign coordinator, the updated bottle bill is a “no brainer.” She said not only does this bill promote recycling and help clean up the environment, but it also saves the state and consumers money.

She said it costs the state a lot of money to deal with waste during incineration. Burning plastic can emit carcinogens into the air, and burying this type of waste can contaminate the groundwater, said Van Leuvan-Smith.

In Boston, there is support for updating the Bottle Bill. In Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2010 budget proposal he suggested amending the Bottle Bill to include water, flavored waters, coffee based drinks, juices and sports drinks of less than 1 gallon in size.

According to a web page produced by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, amending the bottle bill will encourage recycling as well as create new revenue as consumers will be required to pay an additional 5-cents on the newly covered products.

There is some opposition to the bill being updated. According to Van Leuvan-Smith, some companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Polar Water and Ocean Spray are not in favor of updating the bill to include more containers. She said this is because the companies would have to charge their customers more and could potentially lose money.

Beth Ramey, drive coordinator, said they saw a lot of student support for their campaign, saying that “most students were very receptive.” She also said a lot of students expressed confusion as to why many containers lack the five-cent deposit in the first place.

She said they did experience some rejection from students who seemed too busy to sign. “You always get some people who don’t have time,” she said.

Ramey said MassPirg hired an official polling company to gauge the level of support for their efforts and the poll revealed 77 percent of population is on board with this bill.

Caitlin Michniewicz, a junior environmental design major, was in favor of updating the bill and described it as “very awesome.” She was positive about the potential for the updated bill to increase recycling.

Ariel Nenninger, a junior animal science major, was also in favor of the campaign to update the bill. She said it makes sense because “[there are] more options for drinks now than in the ‘80s” and found it necessary to include those drinks.

Jacqueline Pasek-Allen,a junior chemistry major, was not sure whether she was in opposition or in favor of the campaign. While she is in favor of recycling, she thinks more research needs to be done on the Bottle Bill update. “It could be highly detrimental for other parts of the government or the environment,” she said.

She was weary about large corporations being tied to recycling incentives because she feared some sort of backlash from these companies. “Involving corporations into recycling, it sounds good but what’s the back story?” she said. “If they’re helping us recycle, what are they getting out of it?”

She also did not agree with the monetary incentives to recycle and thought people should recycle for the good of recycling. She suggested having more access to recycling receptacles in buildings instead of a five-cent deposit attached to recycling.

The headquarters for the petitioners is stationed outside the Student Union, while other petitioners can be located outside some dining halls, and some lecture halls like Bartlett and Lederle.

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected]