Stores bottled up: Recycling centers call for boycott of glass

Nearly 40 redemption centers across the state are threatening to stop taking glass for a month, beginning April 9, and are asking customers to stop buying it.

Their goal is to show the state and beverage distributors that if they don't start changing their policies, redemption centers will go out of business and there will not be enough places to recycle glass.Christi Muise, owner of the Colonial Shoppe Redemption Center of Hudson, is leading the boycott as president of the Massachusetts Redemption Coalition.She said customers have been receptive to the idea since she started telling them about it a week ago."Once they understand, they really want to help us," Muise said.

Redemption centers have been saying for years that the fee they receive for recycling bottles and cans, 2.25 cents each, which has not changed since 1990, is not enough.

And in July, redemption centers will likely see a surge in the number of empty glass bottles coming through their doors because of Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to charge a 15-cent deposit on liquor and wine bottles.

The redemption centers will lose money on glass, though, because it requires more space and time.

"I don't have a problem with expansion (of the bottle bill). I just want more than 2.25 cents" a bottle, said Mark McDonald, owner of Bridgewater Bottle and Can.

People like going to the redemption centers because they can dump their empty bottles and cans, and the center sorts them, said Joe Knapp, owner of Ware Redemption.

"I provide a service. You've got to expect to pay for my service."

This boycott is meant simply to "galvanize the consumer," not hurt package stores, Muise said.

Charlie Bacon, owner of Bacon's Spirits Co. on Washington Street, says his nine recycling machines might be overwhelmed by a boycott, but he supports the idea.

"(Muise) needs to do what she needs to do," he said. "None of us like the redemption business. There's no money to be made."

"We make a penny a container. You have to do hundreds to make any money," Bacon said.

"I redeem four to five times what I sell. Even with nine machines, on Saturday, it's not enough," he said. "They really need an overhaul in the redemption situation. The whole redemption law is terrible."

According to the Bottle Bill, a store is required to redeem any recyclable bottle or can it sells, but "not everybody in the town redeems," Bacon said. "At most convenience stores, you should be able to, (but they don't do it because) there's no money in it."

Another problem, according to redemption store owners, is the company which collects and processes used beverage containers in the state, Tomra Massachusetts, LLC, a branch of Tomra International.

"We're at their mercy," Muise said. Tomra is the only company that takes used bottles and cans, and they are making it much more difficult and expensive to take glass, say owners such as Michele MacLean of M&M Bottle and Can in Hyde Park.

She has followed guidelines on how to separate the glass, only to find that her glass is not accepted by Tomra, or the container numbers are undercounted, she said.

Tomra officials did not return a call for comment. Tomra requires redemption centers to package 24 bottles to a box, boxes which can only be bought from Tomra, redemption center owners say.

The boxes cost 15 or 20 cents each, Muise said, plus there is the labor of separating the bottles by distributor, color and size. Glass cuts deeply into the bottom line, she said.

McLean, Muise and other redemption store owners say that when glass is on the street and not being recycled, people will realize they cannot only use machines to recycle.

Victory Super Market will not be able to take the glass Colonial Shoppe boycotts, said Tom Glynn, assistant store manager.

His store would be overwhelmed if the the Colonial Shoppe Redemption Center stopped taking glass. "That would be a huge mess for us. I'd have to triple that space" for the half-dozen recycling machines.

On Saturdays, someone has to staff the area just to keep it from overflowing with cans or debris, he said.

"We try to use the machines as a courtesy to customers who shop at Victory. We're not a recycling center, although we do have machines," Glynn said.

The machines can only take $6 worth of cans but staff empty them often. "We try to prevent people from coming in with $100 of returns and clogging us," he said.

If there is no increase in the handling fee, the coalition plans to sue the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Muise said.

Although both the lawsuit and boycotting glass is risky, they have to do something, Muise believes. "We're in a slow death as it is. They're going to kill us eventually."

600450 Stores bottled up: Recycling centers call for boycott of glass
Date: 27 March 2003

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