Bottle Bill Battle Heating Up at Mass. State House

(NECN: Eileen Curran) - The bottle bill battle is heating up big time at the Massachusetts State House.

Supporters and opponents of expanding the five-cent deposit on more bottles in the state both turned out Wednesday to say their piece

People are really passionate about this.

Instead of spending this gorgeous summer day at the beach, 19-year-old Roslind Watson is going door to door at the Massachusetts State House delivering little bottles of water.

The Newton teen and her fellow MassPIRG members are asking each state rep to support the expanded bottle bill.

“Besides fighting for the environment and for these wasted tax dollars, we’re working to get democracy in action,” she says.

The bill would add all water, iced tea and juice bottles to the list of containers requiring a five-cent redeemable deposit.

Proponents got a huge boost last week when the Senate included the measure on an economic development bill.

Now, they’re increasing the pressure on state reps to pass the bill. They held a rally on the State House steps Wednesday, hosted by Cambridge comedian Jimmy Tingle.

“I don’t know if I’m going to make it funny,” the comedian says. “It’s a serious issue.”

Still, he managed to get laughs.

“This bill has been in committee for 14 years. Fourteen years; the Big Dig only took 12 years.”

This is the furthest supporters have taken the bill in that time.

“We have got the truth; we have got the right and now we have got to get the conference committee,” says Alice Wolf, (D) Cambridge.

Rep. Joe Wagner is on the conference committee and can’t comment on their work, but has said, in the past, the bill amounts to a tax.

It’s estimated unredeemed deposits will add 22 million to the state coffers.

“I can assure everyone no matter what side of issue they’re on that the issue will be discussed,” says Rep. Wagner.

Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, which represents grocery stores, says the measure is bad for business, especially smaller stores.

He says the state should concentrate on recycling programs, instead of adding to the bottle bill.

“It’s one thing if you can say, ‘we can’t get at this in a better way,’ but we have a better way. Let’s put it all in the blue bin,” he says.

Bottles may be a small item, and a nickel may not seem like much, but still it’s enough to get even a funny guy a little hot under the collar.

“You guys have been blocking every single step for the last 12 years.”

“Because it’s not the right approach.”

The committee has only until the end of the formal session, which is next week, to decide on that bill.

Governor Deval Patrick has said, if the bill reaches his desk, he will sign it.

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