BOSTON - With polls projecting a defeat next Tuesday, a few dozen supporters of expanding the bottle bill rallied on Boston Common Thursday, highlighting the mountain of money they have faced in attempting to convince voters to support adding water, sports drinks and iced tea to the bottle deposit program.
"The amount of litter makes me want to cry," said Jack Clarke, director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon.
Bottle bill proponents argue that adding containers besides the beer and soda that are currently included in the deposit program will boost recycling and reduce litter.
Touting curbside and community recycling as a better alternative, opponents say the deposit program is outdated and retailers should not be burdened with collecting more empty bottles and cans.
The few dozen people on the common were accompanied by the baleful tones of bagpiper Iain Massie, who said he had been hired by the bottle bill campaign.
Backed by the beverage industry and supermarket chains, the campaign to defeat Question 2 has outspent the bottle bill proponents by 9-to-1 as part of an effort to influence voters through ads.
Bottle bill supporters have objected to ads run by opponents, claiming they are misleading voters.
"We are so discouraged," said Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat and bottle bill supporter. She said, "People are confused. They don't know what this question is about and when you tell them they say, 'Of course. That is such a good idea.'"
Proponents put pressure on House and Senate leaders, claiming if the bill was brought up for a vote in the Legislature, it would pass. The Senate passed the legislation twice on voice votes last session, but House Speaker Robert DeLeo has viewed the plan dimly, calling it a tax, and it never surfaced for vote.
A poll over the summer showed more support than opposition to the bottle bill, but more recent surveys have projected a lopsided defeat. A Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll released Thursday showed the question losing 29-65.
"The only kind of recycling that I disapprove of is the recycling of bad information, and that's exactly what's going on this fall," said MassPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz.
Bottle bill proponents recently launched a TV ad.
"Don't be fooled by big beverage companies trying to buy your vote," said a woman in the ad who describes herself as a mom. The ad started running a few weeks ago with a $700,000 ad buy, and will run through election day, according to Autumn Gould, a spokeswoman for the campaign.