Saturday, November 8, 2014

Putting my bottle where my mouth is (or why I voted against expanding the beverage deposit law)

I voted against Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts. And so did a majority of the Bay Staters, because it didn't pass.

I voted against it because the pro-side rhetoric claimed that it was an "anti-litter" bill.

But it wasn't an anti-litter bill. At least not in my opinion.

At its core, it *was* a "let's make litter more valuable so indigent people will pick it up" bill. (It was also a "let's make groceries more expensive for people who don't recycle" bill and a "let's make the manufacture and distribution of beverages in the Bay State more expensive because we need to have different bottles distributed here" bill.)

Chuckleheads will still throw their garbage on the ground. But, with an expanded bottle deposit law, more of the trash that clutters our roadways and neighborhoods will now have value. While the pro-side of of the ballot question didn't come out and say it, it seems fairly straightforward to me that indigent people will collect litter that has value. If we make our most prevalent litter - drink bottles - more valuable, homeless people will collect it. Ergo, our streets look cleaner, making ballot question 2 an anti-litter bill. Right?

Not to me. Instead, it felt underhanded, gross and exploitative.

I would rather we talked about the problems of homelessness, un- and under-employment that lead people to rely on collecting trash to make a living. I would rather we talk about the dynamics (laziness, lack of community- and self-respect) that lead jerks to throw their trash on the ground in the first place. And I would rather that we, as a society, make strategic decisions about if/how we want to address these problems, so we can compel our neighbors, corporate beverage manufacturers, philanthropists and lawmakers to direct fund to support solutions to our persistent problems. I know there will always be people who "choose" to live on the streets, and who will always "choose" to collect bottles and cans as their form of income, but I'm not psyched about expanding this as an option for people who are in dire straights.

What I most certainly DON'T want is a subversive bill designed to support - rather than prevent - indigence. And that's how I understood Massachusetts Ballet Question 2.

So, in the spirit of putting my bottle where my mouth is, I have decided that BMG and I will put a nickel in a kitty for every bottle and can we buy that *would* have been covered by the expanded bottle deposit bill. At some point during the year, we will make a donation of the money to  homelessness prevention/work support program serving our community.

I'm doing a dump run this morning. We have 10 Gatorade and Orangina bottles ready to go to the transfer station. So, I'll put $0.50 in the kitty. And when I get back, I'll start researching community organizations that are making a difference in preventing and alleviating the factors that contribute to homelessness. Suggestions welcome.


Linda Cundiff said...

I vote you support a Community Action Agency (CAP) especially those with homelessness prevention programs and the mission of eliminating poverty. I have a specific one in mind in Somerville :), it's on the upswing with new leadership and would love your donation.

Clownface said...

I've done the math and it looks like Jeff and I (really Jeff) buy an estimated 58 bottles of drinks that don't require a deposit. This is mostly in the form of electrolyte sports drinks. f there were a deposit, we'd pay an extra $3 a month in deposits, or $36 a year.

So, because we didn't support the expanded bottle bill, we'll make a $36 donation to a local organization that supports employment programs for un- and under-employed people.

And, for the record, we recycle the bottles at our local transfer station.