On Saturday, since the candidate for whom I had been volunteering (Berwick) lost the primary, I decided that I would devote some of my new free time to the ballot initiatives. I signed up to volunteer for Yes on 2, Yes on 3, and Yes on 4.
Coincidentally, that afternoon, the Massachusetts “Information for Voters” guide from Secretary Galvin came in the mail. I’m new to Massachusetts (I’ve lived here just over a year), so I found it particularly interesting to get such a guide. (I don’t remember ever getting one in Pennsylvania—not that we ever had as compelling ballot initiatives in recent years, at least to my memory).
The booklet provides a summary of each of the four ballot questions, tells you what a yes or no vote will mean, provides space for arguments submitted by both sides,and then gives the full text of the proposed law.
The name of the group campaigning against Question 2 caught my eye: “Comprehensive Recycling Works.” By the name, it sounds like either a recycling advocacy group (“works” as a verb) or a recycling company (“works” as a noun). “Comprehensive Recycling Works” criticized the proposal for “expanding an outdated, ineffective, and inconvenient system” and called for “modern recycling technology” that would enable Massachusetts to become a “recycling leader.”
After reading this, I thought to myself, “I wonder who is behind Comprehensive Recycling Works.” So I googled the address (it was given), and lo and behold, the first thing to show up was the website for the Massachusetts Food Association, that is, the supermarket lobby. Or, to use their own words, a trade association of “retailers (from the large chain supermarkets to the corner store operator), food brokers, manufacturers and wholesalers.” Same building, same suite. How kind of them to provide space for this completely-not-connected-in-any-way-group.
Yvonne Abraham had a great piece in the Globe yesterday about the deceptive war being waged by the No on 2 campaign:
A few inconvenient facts get in their way, however. In Massachusetts, we buy 3.5 billion drinks in on-the-go containers each year. Only a third of those get recycled. The rest — enough to fill Fenway Park — are tossed in the trash, ending up in landfills, where they last close to forever, and cost cities and towns more than $7 million a year. The vast majority of those are containers that carry no 5-cent deposit, holding sports drinks, water, and other drinks that weren’t around back when the original bottle bill passed more than 30 years ago. We recycle 79 percent of containers that carry deposits. And only 23 percent of those that don’t. Deposits clearly work.
But well-funded opponents argue deposits are an old idea, as if this makes them inherently bad. They say we should do more curbside recycling, rather than encouraging people to bring in empties to collect their deposits. Why can’t we do both? They say expanding the bill will cost $60 million, though their website doesn’t make it clear who’ll be paying this sum: Consumers will be able to get their deposits back. The beverage companies claim to be worried about consumers, to whom, they say, they’ll have to pass along any extra costs. While it’s truly touching that the same guys who have no problem charging a buck for the exact same water you can get from your faucet for pennies are stricken with concern for their customers’ well-being, reality is not on their side.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection surveyed drink prices in several New England states and found no difference between states with expanded bottle deposit laws and those without. The same report found claims by retailers that expanding the bill would deluge them with bottles they couldn’t handle are similarly iffy: Big supermarkets (stores under 3,000 feet would not have to take empties) are capable of accepting many more bottles than they currently do.
As Abraham points out elsewhere, the bottle bill’s opponents have already devoted $5.4 million to their fight against Question 2 and will probably spend another $5 million by November. Don’t drink their Kool-Aid.