Massachusetts Beer Distributors Oppose Proposed Handling Fee for Bottle Redemption

BOSTON — Massachusetts beer distributors today voiced strong opposition to a proposed increase in the state’s handling fee for bottle redemption, which would saddle small businesses with a $14 million burden and raise prices for consumers.

Members of the industry, which employs thousands in Massachusetts, spoke out at an Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs hearing on the proposed handling fee increase from 2.25 cents per container to 3.25 cents. Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration is pushing the hidden tax through regulatory channels — circumventing voters and the Legislature.

The fee increase would support an outdated and inefficient Bottle Bill system by which redemption centers are reimbursed for processing bottle and can returns. The proposal transfers millions of additional dollars from bottlers and wholesalers to redemption centers — which will result in higher prices for consumers. Yet the measure promises no actual increase in recycling.

“This is simply another tax by another name. And it’s a shame that just as many small businesses are starting to recover, the Patrick Administration introduces yet another proposal that will do nothing more than cut jobs and place additional costs on consumers,” said John Stasiowski, Executive Director of the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts. “What’s even worse is that Governor Patrick is doing this under disguise through a regulatory procedure, leaving voters and legislators out of the process and without a voice.”

The proposed 1 cent increase in the handling fee would result in a staggering $14 million in transfer payments from bottlers and distributors to redemption centers; a tremendous cost burden that will only hurt consumers with higher costs and penalize an industry that already pays $200 million in state, local and federal taxes.

“Our industry supports thousands of quality jobs and injects hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy,” said Stasiowski. “The handling fee increase is a tax that will hurt consumers, make zero impact on recycling and put good jobs a risk. No wonder its being pushed in a side-door manner without legislative input.”

Proponents of the fee increase claim it is an environmental measure, but the truth is that this hidden tax will not result in a single additional container being recycled. In states like Maine and New York, this same proposal tripled the number of redemption centers and further increased fraud, while recycling rates remained the same.

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