After bottle bill defeat, food groups back recycling effort

BOSTON — The food and beverage groups that lobbied to block an expanded bottle deposit law announced a new pro-recycling initiative on Wednesday, saying they would put $533,000 behind a two-year pilot program.

“We’re hoping it changes the debate to a more productive one,” Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, said.

The Massachusetts Recycling Challenge would fund studies into “pay-as-you-throw” trash collection programs in cities and towns, and purchase 200 recycling containers for public places. It is a collaboration between the Food Association and the Massachusetts Beverage Association.

“We certainly hope it shows our commitment to do the right thing,” Flynn said.

Pay-as-you-throw bylaws use various methods to limit the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

Supporters of the updated bottle bill, which would add a 5-cent deposit to non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages, such as iced tea, fruit juice and sports drinks, have said that other recycling efforts should not replace an update to the bottle bill.

“We should be doing a hundred things to improve recycling. Of course I’m for a lot of measures, but the bottle bill is a 29-year-old law that has proven to be the single most effective recycling law there is, and we’re just trying to update it. It’s not the only thing, but it’s at the top of the heap,” Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, said.

The effort to update the bottle bill was stymied last week wjhen the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy sent the bill to study. Flynn has lobbied against the effort, which he describes as an “archaic and outdated” recycling measure, claiming that people do not want to return some of their recyclables to the store and would rather leave everything curbside.

Flynn said the idea of the recycling pilot program came about within the past year, as the bottle bill was under consideration by the committee. He said the food and beverage industry has undertaken other recycling and waste-reduction efforts in the past.

As part of the anti-bottle-bill campaign, Flynn and others organized an anti-bottle-bill group called Real Recycling Massachusetts, which advocated for other recycling initiatives.

“We’re not walking away from this. We’re following through on our commitment,” Flynn said. He said the consultations and receptacle program would go into effect in 2013 and the group is open to any municipality that wants help developing a pay-as-you-throw program or wants a recycling barrel.