BOSTON (CBS) — Some people just don’t like it; having to haul cans and bottles back to the store to collect deposits.

Scott from Reading Declared his Curiosity asking: “Shouldn’t the deposits be abandoned since most towns offer recycling programs?”

Since the birth of the Massachusetts Bottle Bill almost 30 years ago, billions of containers have been returned. However, some people argue that times have changed.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports.

“When the bottle law originally went into place in the early 80’s there was no curbside recycling or drop off center to bring your recyclables,” says Chris Flynn, head of the Massachusetts Food Association, an industry group that represents food stores. He says we don’t need deposits anymore.

“What we’re essentially doing is bringing part of our trash back to a supermarket. That’s a food store environment. It’s not the place to bring it,” says Flynn.

Since curbside recycling is growing, it certainly would be a lot easier to dump the deposits and dump your bottles and cans into your recycling bin. But without the incentive of getting money back, the question is, would people recycle or just toss those cans and bottles into the trash?

MASSPIRG‘s Janet Domenitz, one of the architects of the original bottle bill, says without deposits, people won’t recycle in the quantities they do now by returning bottles and cans to a store or redemption center.

“Over 70 percent of containers that have a deposit are recycled,” says Domenitz. “We feel we need both curbside and the bottle bill to compliment each other to reach maximum recycling,” she adds.

Meanwhile on Beacon Hill, it’s a story of dueling bills. There are some that would expand the bottle bill to include water, juice and energy drink containers, and at least one that would phase out the bottle bill. So far neither idea has moved forward.

What happens to the deposits that aren’t claimed? The state keeps all those nickels to the tune of about $30 million per year.

Comments (44)
  1. alanonthego says:

    If you eliminate the bottle bill what will all the homeless people do for money? I know one woman who pays her $600.00 a month rent just from cans she collects. i wouldn’t mind seeing it go away, it’s a pain to have 2 bins in the kitchen for recycling, one for normal stuff and one for cans/bottles to return.

    1. JP says:

      Umm how does a so called “homeless” woman have a $600/month rent?? This makes no sense at all.

      1. Cynic says:

        Perhaps it wasn’t worded as well as it could have been..I took it to mean that without the bottle bill she would be Homeless. Before I retired When I lived in Mass I rarely took back the cans or bottles but I always made sure that they got into the hands of those that can really use them.I was on the streets all day so I took to picking up containers whenever I saw them. Then When I saw a Homeless person or a (Usually Elderly)Asian Person making thier rounds I would drop the Cans or Bottles in a trash Can or dumpster a little way ahead of them and sat in my vehicle and watched them as they “Hit The Lottery”.Where I’m living now there is no bottle deposit and I feel guilty throwing them in the trash,or watching others throw then out along the Highways.We have to be aware of who doesn’t want the Bottle Bill and ask what the source of these articles. is.I think that we will find it’s the Bottlers feeding the articles to thier friends in the Media.It can then be presented as a news article when in in reality it is a campaign by the bottlers serepticiously get thier story out.Rather than get rid of deposits I believe they should be expanded to include ALL containers such as they do in Maine.

    2. Ok, you don’t NEED to have 2 recycling bins. The bottle bill is an incentive to recycle what you otherwise may just out in the trash. In my hometown, trash pick up will only take pre approved trashbags, which are quite expensive, so recycling, and furthermore getting money to bring the cans and bottles back to the store is a no brainer! In this case alone it reduces the waste you put on the curb.

  2. Christine Murphy says:

    I hate the bottle bill and wish it would go away. I hate all the pushing and shoving I have to deal with at the bottle return rooms at the store. I also hate the fact that people rip open other people’s trash to look for empties and leave the mess all over the place..

    I wish I could just put the stuff into the recycling bin, as they do up in New Hampshire.

  3. JP says:

    The bottle bill is a sham, its only used on carbonated beverages so how many millions of bottles of water, iced tee, etc are sold with no deposit on them? Either eliminate it entirely or apply it to EVERY bottled beverage.

  4. jaxbrill says:

    We have people in our neighborhood in N.Cambridge who collect deposit bottles every week. We leave those bottles out for them, and recycle the rest. I’m sure they’re not the only ones out there who could use the income.

    1. Christine Murphy says:

      I actually did try putting deposit cans and bottles in a separate box for people to take. They still ripped open the trash looking for more. I’m tired of having to clean up the mess, so I stopped putting them out and started taking them back to the stores.

  5. Gary Marcelynas says:

    The bottle bill is like a tax in this state. The legislature will not have the guts to repeal it. This would be a perfect ballot question during the next election. Unlike the 3% sales tax question, this one would probably get 75% approval (I am on a limbhere, this being Massachusetts)

    1. Cynic says:

      Gary…Unlike a TAX:You get your money back when you return the cans and bottles.

  6. Marty in Arlington says:

    How does the state spend that extra money?? Getting rid of the bill would make it safer for early morning drivers not having to dodge pickers in the wee hours of the morning!!

  7. TK588 says:

    I for one support the removal of the deposits. I work in western Massachusetts for a human service agency specializing with compulsive hoarders. Although 70% of bottles and cans are technically redeemable in MA not all are able to be processed since it depends on who is contracting the store’s products (i.e. stores that predominantly contract though Coca-cola will only take Coca Cola bottles and cans). Many compulsive hoarders will save all bottles and cans that are irredeemable leading to evictions and health related issues for these peoples as well as a HUGE expense for the tax payer. I understand that my experience is extremely marginalized however Iit has provided a lot of insight into bottle and can redemption’s. Let’s go curb side.

  8. Eric R. says:

    Obviously some people forget how many bottles and cans littered the streets before the bottle bill passed. To do away with the deposit system would be a huge step backwards in the effort to recycle.

  9. Whitey says:

    When you put your empties out on the curb for recycling, just remember that people have the right to pick your trash as well as your plastic bins. The trash is “NOT on your property”, thus the little old lady in her 15 year old Mercedes Benz has the right to PICK YOUR TRASH baby!!! If you don’t want to bring your nickel and dime cans and bottles to the centers, save them up and donate them to your local charities and organizations. Don’t let the trash companies and the government get your $$$’s. Vote to eliminate the tax on these can’s and bottles. Call your state reps and let them know how you feel!! The news media is dying to stir things up, it’s great headlines that sell papers and TV time. Wake up new England, smell the roses before it’s too late ! ! Happy holidays.

  10. Steve says:

    More people would return their bottles back to the stores wher they purchased the product but the local small stores ie: ( 7-11) are not taking them back. The law sates they have to take them back. Legaly the redemtion centers don’t have to take the botles because they don’t dell the product.. Do an investiagtion on this

    1. R. Casey says:

      I would for people to get things correctly. Legally grocery stores and package store have to take back your empties. They do have the right to only take a certain amount at a time back, and they also will only take back what they sell. Redemption centers will take back everything that has a deposit no matter where it is sold.

  11. Cynic says:

    JP now that I have re-read Alanonthego’s comment I have to ammend mine….I should have said “Perhaps you didn’t read it as well as you could have”.

  12. Dmitriy says:

    All those folks who oppose the bottle bill, I invite you to walk to river, a park or a sports facility in your community and look at what makes up most of the litter. Volunteers at community cleanouts across the state recently counted deposit vs. non-deposit bottles found on the ground. Non-deposit bottles (e.g. water, sports drinks, etc) are NINE TIMES more likely to end up as litter than deposit bottles and cans. The bottle bill works, and we need to expand it, not abolish it.

    In regards to where unredeemed deposits go, they should go to recycling and other green imrovements in the state. We need to ask the legislators to stop spending that money on unrelated projects.

  13. Cynic says:

    I hear a tremendous amount of anger directed toward those “Freeloaders” that collect Cans and Bottles that others have paid the deposit on….Try doing what they do…Spend all night in wind,rain,snow and cold walking mile after mile for a lousy 5 or ten bucks in deposits. Thiers is probably the most DIFFICULT JOB in our Society. Would you like to live that way?

  14. ann says:

    i think they should keep the bottle bill
    i do retuns my cans every month

  15. Aws1026 says:

    The bottle bill should be expanded to include juice, water, and sports drinks. The facts are simple – redeemable bottles are recycled at way higher rates than those without a deposit. We can’t afford for these bottles to end up in land fills and incenrators – or worse still our roads, parks and waterways.

  16. taxedout says:

    I agree that the bottle bill does keep a Large portion of litter of the streets and roads. If people want to go out and pick up the money that is their business. only in Mass would they have so many rules about bringing back the deposits, they don’t make it easy!!! Can’t do beer bottles in a grocery store, at the redemption store they only take bottles that their distributor picks up even though the bottles all say MA on them, I lived threw the Throw away society days, use once and toss it…People we are running out of land fill, everything should be recycled and reused.!!! If your to Lazy call someone up to take it away!!!

  17. Barrie says:

    I hate having to return the bottles and cans. I hate having clutter in my kitchen and hate that they pile up. I won’t return them until I have a bunch because even 2 or 3 big trashbags worth are only like $7 or $8. I set them on our counter, and then put them in a paper bag on our deck, but then the paper bag gets ripped or rained on. However, I pay that $.05 cents, so you bet I’m going to be returning them!!

    However, my mom collects them on her daily walks and turns them in and donates the money to the Relay for Life every year. Last year she raised about $100 I think!!

    Definitely some money to be earned, but I agree that MA makes it too hard!! And I don’t like going to the redemption center, the people push and are rude and cut!! Ugh!

  18. emom says:

    i give my deposits to my kid,,, take them to be returned and my kid takes care of them and gets the reward,,, what a way to pay for some choirs…

  19. steve consilvio says:

    The bottle bill is still a tax because it wastes the time and resources of the people. A nickle doesn’t come close to covering the cost, but it is returned anyway, so it is a loss for everyone involved.

    As far as the homeless go, they are resourceful. Maybe if everyone stops wasting time with an unnecessary trash stream, we can move forward to solving other problems more logically, too.

    The Bottle Bill should have been repealed years ago. I am glad to see the issue come up, and those who want to expand it are completely out of their minds. Regressive progressives need to wake up and realize that part of being a progressive is thinking smart. Recycling was the victory. There is no need to have two streams of trash working their way to the same recycling plant. The waste negates the alleged gains.

  20. Laurel Johnson says:

    Why don’t more towns arrange to have non-profit groups collect cans and bottles at their landfills? My two uncles in Scituate (both Masons) alternate with other groups, each taking one month at a time. This provides income for worthy causes, as well as supporting re-cycling.

  21. Trash Paddler says:

    I’m more curious as to why the Bottle Bill has never been expanded to include non-carbonated beverages.
    An ideal system might be one that differentiates between bottles/cans purchased for ‘home’ use and those purchased ‘on the go’. The ‘on the go’ bottles/cans are the ones still requiring a deposit in my opinion. Al

  22. Sunni says:

    Surprised that no one has yet pointed out that many communities do not provide “curbside pickup”. Many of us still must take trash to a transfer station. In my town (Plymouth) transfer station permits are expensive, there is no financial incentive to recycle, and recycling is not user-friendly.
    I do recycle myself (paper, plastic, glass), and support extending the deposit law to include all glass and plastic.

  23. Phil Sego, Mass Sierra Club says:

    While I appreciate that some people believe that access to curbside has solved all our recycling needs, but the reality is that while curbside is great for beverages consumed at home, it’s not effective for beverages consumed on-the-go. But the Bottle Bill is. The Bottle Bill is the state’s most successful recycling and litter prevention program. Since the Bottle Bill’s inception in 1983, over 30 billion containers have been redeemed, contributing to a healthier environment, cleaner and safer communities, and a stronger economy. But to keep up with the times and consumer’s tastes, the bottle bill must be updated. An Updated Bottle Bill would expand our container deposit system to include “new age” drinks such as non-carbonated beverages, water, iced tea, juice, and sports drinks. It would decrease litter – and increase recycling.

  24. Phil Sego, Mass Sierra Club says:

    Bottle Bills don’t compete with curbside, they complement it. The bottling industry intentionally perpetuates an incorrect assertion that we should choose between curbside programs and container deposits. Recycling data proves that both systems are compatible and necessary. Beverages are purchased and consumed both at home – where curbside recycling can be effective – and also away-from-home for immediate consumption. Beverages consumed away from home can be captured with deposits, but are beyond the reach of curbside programs. Despite a tripling in the number of curbside programs in the U.S. from 1990-2000, the quantity of aluminum cans wasted only increased from 554,000 to 691,000 tons a year, and the amount of PET beverage bottles landfilled and incinerated rose from 359,000 to 943,000 tons per year. States without bottle bills have only a meager 22% recycling rate, while states with a bottle bill typically have a 70-90% rate.

  25. JeffC says:

    I agree with Janet (MassPIRG) and Phil (Sierra Club) that they do “compliment” each other. Even though the Bottle Bill program has been active for 30 years, I still see tons of plastic bottles and alum. cans on the road ways up and down the streets / highways thru Mass. If the recycling rates in states who have the bottle bill in place wasn’t so high, I would say consider abandoning it, because there’s curbside or transfer stations throughout the state that collect. But the bottom line is that there’s still a long way to go in making it a commitment from those who buy cans and bottles to do the right thing in recycling or returning. Making it more of a common sense activity verses a “if I feel like it” action.

  26. Greg says:

    I agree with part of what JP says – we should extend it further. I play basketball, bring a bottle of Powerade to the gym, then throw it away there where it won’t get recycled. If there were a 5c deposit I’d put the bottle in my bag and bring it home. Returning empties isn’t such a big deal, and the 5c nudge is just what some folks need. Thanks Phil from Sierra for the stats to back up my gut feeling — 70 – 90% recycling is better than 22%.

  27. Ken says:

    To all those who think we don’t need the Bottle Bill because people can recycle their containers via curbside recycling, I ask: how many people do you think will carry their empty, often leaking can or bottle home from a trip to a park, or a visit to a sporting event? Answer, almost nobody. That is why we need the Bottle Bill – it is the only way to reliably capture beverage containers consumed away from home. By picking your container out of the trash or off the ground to get the deposit, low income people are doing all of us a service. Do you really want to go back to pre-Bottle Bill days when cans and bottles littered parks and roadsides? I certainly don’t.

  28. Cynic says:

    There is a recycling center On Washington Street in Quincy Point…They don’t make you spend all day separating the cans and bottles.They just ask you how many you have and give you the Money…It appears that they believe that because they are HONEST people that others must be also,

  29. Louise says:

    The Bottle Bill is a proven success and should be expanded. Clearly, it needs to include water, juice, sports drinks — sales of which continue to rise. For info on the benefits of expanding the bill, see an analysis commissioned by the MassDEP at:
    “… expansion of the Bottle Bill would save municipalities between $4.2 and $6.9 million annually in litter abatement, avoided collection, and disposal/recycling costs.”

  30. Sully says:

    I am tired of picking up water bottles along the roadside when I walk my dog. Many people don’t bring bottles home to recycle when they are out, they throw them in the trash or out their car windows.
    Bottle deposits also enable Boy Scouts, school music programs, our own High School after-prom party, and many other organizations to run their programs, and in some cases to exist at all.
    An expanded bottle bill would also enable public events to send a lot less good material to the “dump”. I help with recycling at the Marshfield Fair, and it would require a lot less volunteer effort if all the drink containers carried a deposit.

  31. Renata von Tscharner says:

    The most important issue in this discussion is that we want to have as many bottles stay out of the trash. While many responsible citizens put their bottles in the recycling bin, many other dispose of bottles by putting them into trash containers or as we see along the Charles River PArklands, just drop them into the bushes. Because we have seen such a dramatic difference between bottles that can be redeemed and those with no deposit, we have supported the update of the bottle bill. This is a win-win situation: for the environment and for the state coffers.
    Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy

  32. 5 cents worth says:

    Let the scouts, homeless, civic groups etc, make money others throw away.

    Let the state keep the $30 million so our taxes don’t go up even higher (because it WILL go up if they “lose” it).

    Add iced tea and water bottles to the bill.

    This bill will only keep our roads and sidewalks cleaner.

    Will YOU bend over to pick up a non dedeemable bottle and carry it to a trash barrel.

    I didn’t think so….

  33. MARK says:

    We need to Update the Bottle Bill to include all beverages for deposit- Non-Carbonated and Carbonated Beverages- I see so many water bottles on our streets. They need to get recycled. The bottle works and is very successful. We need to expand it now! Update the Bottle Bill.

  34. AR says:

    I can’t believe this is even a controversy. It is not a big problem to return bottles. If you have curbside recycling, and the nickel is not worth it to you, just put it in your recycle bin, and give the nickel to the state budget. However, many towns do not have good recycling programs, let alone curbside, so the nickel deposit does encourage people in those areas to return bottles (and thereby recycle them).

    Water bottles and other things should have the deposit as well. These were not widely sold when the bottle bill was passed and now are everywhere. They should not become litter The bottle bill works, as the woman interviewed stated, just listen to the numbers — over 70% of deposit bottles are returned. There is no reason to end it, we should enlarge it to more plastic items.

    As for the people living on the streets needed the nickels, that is a different issue; I’d much prefer people had a place to live and enough income to survive. The current state of people trying to survive on the streets is not acceptable, and it does not have to be permanent. We never used to have such a large number of of people living on the streets indefinitely. In the 50s 60s and 70s, people had affordable housing. We could and should have that again.

  35. Jackie Schmidts says:

    Mr. Flynn is correct and astute, if you think about it, we are bringing back garbage, waste in the form of potential bacteria or worse contaminated trash to the very place we purchase our fresh food. This doesn’t make sense. Since recycling programs exist, we should remove the deposit, it is a tax afterall to those that don’t redeem the containers and to those that have to handle the returns. There is a better, less costly way of handling our garbage, expanding the bottle bill that would increase the amount of garbage going to places where I like to buy safe, fresh food is not the answer!

  36. taxedout says:

    That’s right. get rid of the bottle bill and all those people who Now throw their bottles and cans out the window will Stop doing it and put them all in the re-cycle bin….Keep dreaming!!!!

  37. cleanernow says:

    I remember before we had bottle bill streets are cleaner now believe it or not much less broken bottles on my street for one people pick it up if money is involved for second reason

  38. Katrina Sukola says:

    The Bottle Bill is an incentive to recycling. Curbside recycling is convenient for those who have access to it in their communities (or use it efficiently). But the Bottle Bill has never been expanded to include non-carbonated beverages (water bottles, juice, sports drinks). It is time to get out of the 80’s and move the bill – and the environment – into the current decade!

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