Bay State places 'nickel-and-dime' bounty on all beverage containers
Throw-away beverage bottles and cans will be ''banned in Boston'' - and in the rest of Massachusetts as well. This hard-fought victory, 12 years in the making, came Nov. 16 when the state Senate overrode Gov. Edward J. King's veto of legislation requiring nickle and dime deposits on all beer and soft drink containers. The vote followed similar action earlier in the House of Representatives.
The action makes Massachusetts the eighth state in the nation and the fourth in New England to put a bottle law on the books. Similar legislation prohibiting ''no deposit'' glass, metal, or plastic beverage containers, which takes effect next July 1, was approved in Delaware last spring. Earlier this year lawmakers in Suffolk County on New York's Long Island also passed such a measure. On Nov. 3, voters in Columbia, Mo., adopted through referendum a local ordinance mandating deposits on soda pop and malt beverage containers.
Passage of the Bay State statute, which takes effect Jan. 17, 1983, is particularly significant because this is the largest state in the Northeast with a bottle law and only the second major industrial state (Michigan being the first) to enact one.
Legislative support for the statute had been building since 1979 when Governor King vetoed a bottle bill, and backers were unable to muster the required two-thirds vote in both chambers for an override. This time, King's veto fell before the House by a 108 to 49 marign and the Senate by 29 to 10,
While conceding that the measure would reduce bottle and can litter, the governor rejected the legislation, terming it ''inflationary and anticonsumer.''
Disappointed by their failure to thwart passage of the law, the opposition, which includes bottle and can makers as well as bottlers, is threatening to mount a petition drive to place a repeal proposal on next November's statewide ballot. Although public opinion polls in recent years indicate that the majority of Bay State citizens favors a bottle law, critics of the new statute hope that as the time for its implementation approaches, such sentiments will waiver. Leaders of the Ralph Nader-affiliated Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group say they are confident public support will continue.
Opponents argued that the bill threatened jobs in bottle and can plants. Total employment in these industries in the commonwealth, however, is less than 600. The new law provides extended assistance for those thrown out work by its implementation. Opponents also discount the suggestion that Rhode Island anrPgy ./ shire, which lack bottle bills, will follow Massachusetts. But many bottle bill activists disagree. They say the Bay State victory will help provide momentum for similar moves elsewhere over the next year.
Initiative petition moves for 1982 ballots already are afoot in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington State. Particularly strong legislative drives for a bottle bill can be expected in Maryland, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.