On Monday, Boston Public Radio hosted a debate about the second question on the state's November ballot — the so-called Bottle Bill. Janet Domenitz is the executive director of MassPIRG, and a supporter of the Bottle Bill. Nicole Giambusso is director of O'Neil and Associates' communications team. Giambusso doesn't support deposit expansion.
The question, in part, reads as follows:
This proposed law would expand the state's beverage container deposit law, also known as the Bottle Bill, to require deposits on containers for all non-alcoholic non-carbonated drinks in liquid form intended for human consumption, except beverages primarily derived from dairy products, infant formula, and FDA approved medicines.
The Bottle Bill would also provide for changes in the deposit amount required, based on the Consumer Price Index.
The proposed law would require the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to adjust the container deposit amount every five years to reflect (to the nearest whole cent) changes in the consumer price index, but the value could not be set below five cents.
The Massachusetts legislature has tried unsuccessfully to pass a similar bottle-deposit bill in the past. On November 4th, voters will ultimately decide whether to enact new deposits.
"It establishes a refundable deposit on what's become a huge part of the market," Domenitz said. The deposit will apply to "water bottles, Diet Snapples," and other containers. "We have a billion containers that we will capture every year," which Domenitz said is enough to fill up Fenway Park.
"I would disagree that the deposit system is the most effective means" for recycling, Giambusso said. "According to our research this would actually cost cities and towns, (...) it actually takes material [of value] out of their waste streams."
"So much has changed since 1982 when [Massachusetts] passed this deposit law," Giambusso said, referring to the Commonwealth's decision to offer deposit on aluminum cans. "A lot of people can recycle at home or right there in their communities. (...) If [Question Two] passed you'd be paying for two recycling programs." When asked whether she supports repealing the 1982 law entirely Giambusso said "our entire coalition is focused on Question Two, specifically." Giambusso suggested increasing the number of recycling receptacles in cities as a way to cut down on litter.
Domenitz said the companies funding the "No on Question Two" coalition are the ones whose products make the ballot question necessary. Coca-Cola and Pepsi "have so far spent $8 million against this," Domenitz said. "It's MassPIRG against the American Beverage Association."
Giambusso responded, "That's been disclosed, it's public information. Yes, we do have support form the grocery and the beverage industry." Giambusso said companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola are against Question Two because it will raise prices for consumers.
"Curbside [recycling] is important, lots of different ways of recycling are important. The deposit system exists in ten states around the US," Domenitz said. Giambusso responded, "If it were really the environmental solution, the end-all, be-all, I think more than ten states would've adopted [expanded bottle deposit] by now," Giambusso said.
Voting for the four ballot questions — as well as for the general state election — is on Tuesday, November 4th. Boston Public Radio will host four total debates about the ballot questions.
>> For the complete debate between Nicole Giambusso and Janet Domenitz, click the audio above.