Answering Question Six

The Mail

To the Editors of The Crimson:

As coordinator of the Somerville Saves ecycling program, I am often asked if the Bottle Bill represents a threat to Somerville's first-in-the-nation, municipally-operated home pickup recycling program. People from other cities and towns ask, "Will our voluntary recycling programs be hurt if Question 6 passes?"

The Somerville Saves program now collects about 25 per cent of all the beverage containers in the city. Based upon the experience of Vermont and Oregon, where similar bills were passed, we can expect of 90 per cent of the beverage containers in the city to be returned if the Bottle Bill passes. That will save Somerville (pop. 84,000) about $30,000 in annual disposal costs.

Of course figures will be higher or lower in other communities, but all should save significant amounts of tax money. Thus, recycling programs will lose a small volume but overall the cities and towns will gain.

Further, returning containers for reuse is environmentally and economically superior even to recycling. The use of refillable containers saves consumers money and creates local jobs.

The jobs issue has been a source of confusion, with opponents' ads threatening job losses if Question 6 passes, but the authoritative Federal Reserve Board study predicting more jobs. What most people don't realize is that the switch to throwaway containers has cost Massachusetts up to 3,000 jobs over the past twenty years, as beverage companies regionalized their operations and moved out of state.

But I'd like to raise a final question--it's about our environment. Do we care about the broken glass and rusting cans that litter our parks, playgrounds, and streets, discouraging parents and kids from using them and endangering those who do? Litter was down in Vermont and Oregon after their bottle bills passed.

Instead of breaking the bottles, kids can return them for cash, just as we once did years ago. Kids aren't foolish, not when there's good pocket money just lying on the ground. John Madama