Worcester Earth Day Cleanup

Hello - As you (may) know I have asked various river and/or Earth Day cleanups this spring to focus on the presence of non-returnable (non-redeemable) beverage containers retrieved during the cleanup. My hypothesis was that the number of non-returnables (bottled water, juice, "sports" drinks, etc.) would significantly exceed the number of returnable (deposit) containers collected (because the lack of a deposit on the non-redeemable containers would make people much more likely to not dispose of them properly). If this is true, then it would bolster the argument why the state Bottle Deposit Law should be expanded (as Governor Romney has proposed to do in his FY04 budget) to cover these other drink containers, which, as you (may) know, make up an increasingly larger share of the beverage market. If bottled water, juice, sports drink, etc. containers also had deposits on them, we would probably see a lot less of them littering our landscape.

The first beverage container tally took place at the Charles River Cleanup on 4/12/03. The following numbers were obtained from the sample of trash bags collected: deposit containers - 96; non-deposit containers - 431. In other words, non-deposit containers outnumbered deposit containers on a 4.5:1 ratio. We were curious to see if the Worcester Earth Day Cleanup on 4/26/03 would yield similar or different results.

Most of the discarded beverage containers collected in the Worcester Earth Day Cleanup and used to generate the figures in this report came from the following four cleanup sites that volunteered to participate in the tally out of the 50 or more cleanup locations that took place that day:

(1) along Granite St., adjacent to Mass. Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary;

(2) the area at the junction of Madison St. and Southbridge St. containing a parking lot for Mass. DEP and the Registry of Motor Vehicles;

(3) Oread and Castle St. and Castle Park; and

(4) Coes St. and the shores of Coes Pond and Reservoir.

Like the Charles cleanup, the Worcester cleanup took place on a cool and very rainy day. Nevertheless, volunteers at the four sites were able to retrieve and separate out more than 1,400 discarded beverage containers from the other litter they collected. The containers were then sorted into four categories and brought to the post-cleanup Earth Day Festival at Crystal Park the following day.

Here are the final tally numbers:

(1) # of deposit, non-alcoholic beverage containers (carbonated soft drinks): 121
(2) # of deposit, alcoholic beverage containers (beer bottles/cans): 155

          Subtotal, deposit containers: 276 (19.33% of total)

(3) # of non-deposit, non-alcoholic beverage containers (bottled water, ice tea, juice, “sports” drinks, etc.): 808
(4) # of non-deposit, alcoholic beverage containers (wine and liquor): 344

          Subtotal, non-deposit containers: 1,152 (80.67% of total)

          (Total # of containers in tally: 1,428)

In other words, based on the tally results, the ratio of non-deposit vs. deposit containers collected during the Worcester Earth Day cleanup is 4.2:1. This result is remarkably similar to the tally conducted at the 4/12/03 Charles River Cleanup, at which the non-deposit containers outnumbered the deposit containers by a 4.5:1 ratio.

At a community pond, volunteers stand behind bags and boxes of collected litter

Here is a photo of the tallied beverage containers at Crystal Park, with several members of Mass. Community Water Watch participating in the cleanup in the background. The pile on the left, in front of the cleanup volunteers, are the non-redeemable (non-deposit) containers, and the pile on the right (next to the black pole) are the redeemable (deposit) containers (The yellow bags on the left contain about 150 bottles/cans per bag.) It is clear that the non-deposit pile on the left is much (i.e., over four times) larger than the deposit pile on the right.

Here’s how the Worcester cleanup findings are even more dramatic when the respective market shares for deposit and non-deposit containers are factored in. According to Peter Allison at DEP, the current (2000 data) overall market share in Mass. for beverage containers is 76.5% deposit (carbonated soft drinks and beer, covered by the current Mass. “Bottle Bill” law) and 23.5% non-carbonated (bottled water, juice, “sports” drinks, etc., along with wine and liquor, all of which are not covered by the current bottle deposit law).  In other words, over three deposit bottles/cans are sold in this state for every one non-deposit container sold.

If this market share statistic is factored in to the results of our cleanup tally, our findings are even more striking.  You will recall that non-deposit containers made up 80.67 % of the beverage containers collected, whereas deposit containers made up only 19.33 % of the total, an approximately 4.2:1 ratio.  Factoring in the market share data, it means that although non-deposit containers make up less than 25% of the beverage market, they made up over 80% of the beverage containers found in the cleanup.  In contrast, although deposit containers make up at least 75% of the beverage market, they only made up less than 20% of the bottles/cans found in the cleanup.  Put another way, as there is currently at least three deposit beverage containers sold in Massachusetts for every one non-deposit container, according to our cleanup tally it is over twelve times more likely that a non-deposit beverage container sold in Massachusetts will end up littering our waterways than will a deposit container . 

When the Worcester results are further broken down into alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage categories (something that was not calculated for the Charles cleanup), and combined with the relevant market share data, the discrepancy between the presence of deposit vs. non-deposit containers in the litter is even more compelling. In the non-alcoholic category, Worcester tally results showed that the number of discarded non-deposit containers (808) exceeded the number of deposit containers (121) by a 6.7:1 ratio. In contrast, the current Mass. market share for carbonated soft drinks (deposit containers) is about 70% of the total non-alcoholic beverage market, whereas bottled water, juice, etc. (non-deposit) currently make up only 30% of that market (although this share has increased in recent years and is expected to continue to do so).

By combining these two statistics, one discovers that although non-deposit containers make up only about 30% of the nonalcoholic beverage market, they made up 87% of the non-alcoholic beverage containers found in the cleanup.  In contrast, although deposit containers make up at least 70% of the non-alcoholic beverage market, they only made up only 13% of the bottles/cans found in the cleanup.  Put another way, as there is currently at least two deposit non-alcoholic beverage containers sold in Massachusetts for every one non-deposit container, according to our cleanup tally it is over thirteen times more likely that a bottled water, juice, ice tea. “sports” drink or other non-deposit, non-alcoholic beverage container sold in Massachusetts will end up littering our landscapes and waterways than will a deposit container . 

In the alcoholic beverage category, although Worcester tally results showed that the number of discarded non-deposit containers (344) exceeded the number of deposit containers (155) by only a 2.2:1 ratio, when combined with the market share data the results are even more dramatic than for non-alcoholic containers. That is because the current (based on 2000 data) Mass. market share for alcoholic beverages sold in deposit containers (i.e., beer) is about 91% of the total alcoholic beverage market in terms of number of beverage containers sold, whereas non-deposit alcoholic beverage containers (wine and liquor) currently make up only 9% of that market.

By combining these two statistics, one discovers that although non-deposit containers make up only about 9% of the alcoholic beverage market, they made up 69% of the alcoholic beverage containers found in the cleanup.  In contrast, although deposit containers make up 91% of the alcoholic beverage market, they only made up only 31% of the bottles/cans found in the cleanup.  Put another way, as there is currently at least nine deposit alcoholic beverage containers (beer cans/bottles) sold in Massachusetts for every one non-deposit container, according to our cleanup tally it is about twenty times more likely that a wine or liquor bottle sold in Massachusetts will end up littering our landscapes and waterways than will a beer can or bottle .  \

Conclusion

In conclusion, the results of the beverage container tally at the 2003 Worcester Earth Day Cleanup strongly support the value of placing a deposit on beverage containers in greatly reducing the likelihood that they will be disposed of improperly and end up littering Worcester’s neighborhoods, open spaces and waterways. If the state’s current Bottle Deposit Law were expanded to cover non-deposit beverage containers such as bottled water, juice, ice teas, “sports” drinks and the like (such as the proposed Bottle Bill expansion included in Governor Romney’s proposed state budget for FY04), it is reasonable to expect that future Worcester Earth Day Cleanups and similar events across the state would have considerably fewer discarded beverage containers to contend with .

A final note : While we were setting up the piles of returnables and non-returnable beverage containers to display at the Worcester Earth Day Festival at Crystal Park, two gentlemen approached us and asked if they could have the deposit bottles and cans (i.e., the smaller pile on the right of the photo) when we were done with them. Just think: if the Bottle Deposit law were expanded to cover the currently non-redeemable beverage containers as well, these two men would have happily taken away the bigger as well as the smaller pile.

Russ Cohen,
Mass. Riverways Program,
(617) 626-1543,
russ.cohen@state.ma.us


© 2007 - 2016 Container Recycling Institute | About Us