Lawmakers Seek Surcharge On Water Bottles

Download Audio
Water bottles
Some state lawmakers and environmental advocates want to keep these out of the landfill. (MissTessmacher/Flickr)

For more than 25 years, beer and soda drinkers in Massachusetts pay a little extra every time they shop. Each bottle or can carries a 5-cent surcharge. Bring the container back empty, get that nickel back.

Now lawmakers and environmental advocates want to expand the law to cover water bottles and other non-carbonated beverage containers. Retail groups are fighting back.

The bottle bill has not significantly changed since it first took effect in 1983. At a State House press conference Wednesday afternoon, James McCaffrey, the director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, said he can think of a billion reasons the bottle bill should include all those empty water and sports drink bottles that we're tossing into the trash now.

"Those are the billions of bottles that end up in the landfills and could fill Fenway Park to overflowing, each year, in the commonwealth," McCaffrey said.

There's a "green" argument for expanding the bill. But there's also a "green" argument against it. Opponents say the state's hunger for that other kind of green — as in, up to $20 million in new revenue — is the real motivation. And that expanding the bottle bill amounts to nothing more than a tax on consumers and added costs for retailers.


  • State Rep. Alice Wolf, legislative sponsor of the updated bottle bill
  • Brian Houghton, vice president of the Massachusetts Food Association

This program aired on July 7, 2010.


More from Radio Boston

Listen Live