AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – National recognition for Agawam resident Jack Coughlin for his personal commitment to ridding the streets in his hometown of litter.

The Container Recycling Institute has selected the 78-year-old Coughlin for his prestigious “Courageous Spirit Award.”

22News recently highlighted Jack Coughlin’s crusade cleaning Agawam streets. Mayor William Sapelli has also honored Jack Coughlin’s commitment.

William Sapelli mayor of Agawam said, “Senator John Velis along with State Representative Boldyga are co-sponsors of this bottle bill, including nip bottles. In talking with Jack, Jack always stated that litter is nip bottles.”

This past January Jack Coughlin was struck by a car while picking up debris. He was left paralyzed.

In a news release sent to 22News, CRI released the following information:

Massachusetts’ Bottle Bill

Massachusetts is one of just 10 U.S. states with a container deposit law (aka bottle bill), which enables consumers to return empty bottles and cans to a recycling location and get back the deposit they paid upon purchase.

Data show that these bills significantly increase beverage container recycling rates, resulting in less litter and harmful marine debris; reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (due to fewer containers that need to be made from virgin materials); and provide more high-quality scrap for manufacturers.

In addition, a report issued by CRI in 2016 indicated that per data at the time, the Massachusetts bottle bill created nearly 1,500 direct employment jobs; resulted in the return of $62.3 million in deposits to consumers at redemption locations; and saved cities and towns likely on the order of $20 million annually by redirecting containers from the municipal waste stream.

However, according to CRI President Susan Collins, Massachusetts’ 40-year-old bottle bill has become outdated, and requires an upgrade to further maximize its benefits. 

“The Commonwealth’s current bottle bill provides a 5¢ deposit only on carbonated beverages,” she said. “About 2.3 billion beverage containers are currently recycled each year, which is less than a third of the total number generated. Our analysis shows that adding non-carbonated beverages and wine and spirits to the bottle bill, and increasing the deposit to 10¢ for all containers covered, would more than double the number of cans and bottles recycled annually to approximately 5.1 billion.”

She added, “It’s clear that Massachusetts needs an enhanced bottle bill to help ensure a more sustainable future – a future with a reduction in the litter that Jack continually cleaned up along roads and shorelines, and in parks and other public places.” 

Proposed Nips Deposit: “Jack’s Bill”

Bottle bill expansion legislation proposed in Massachusetts this year includes House Docket (HD) No. 78: “An Act promoting the proper disposal of miniatures.” It is being referred to as “Jack’s Bill” because it focuses on the nips he identified as a top cause of litter during his cleanups. 

“Jack has been a staunch advocate for this important legislation, which would add a 5¢ deposit to miniature bottles to incentivize people to recycle them,” said Massachusetts State Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield). “From traveling to the statehouse to testify during public hearings, to contacting legislators directly, he has been so dedicated in calling attention to this critical issue, and I am proud to co-sponsor this bill.” 

Massachusetts House of Representatives Rep. Nicholas Boldyga (R-3rd Hampden), a primary sponsor of HD 78, said, “Jack truly is a community hero and is someone I have admired for many years. He didn’t just see a problem and complain about it, he got out there every day and did what no one else would do. I look forward to working with the mayor, City Council, members of the community and my colleagues in the Legislature to do everything we can to get this bill on the governor’s desk and into law.”

In addition, the Agawam City Council adopted a resolution to petition the Massachusetts General Court (the State Legislature) to adopt HD 78 in honor of Coughlin. Agawam City Councilor George Bitzas noted, “I will continue to do my best to see that the House and Senate pass ‘Jack’s Bill’ this year.”