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Source: Environment News Service

New York Considers Bigger Better Bottle Bill

Posted: January 23, 2009
Originally Published: January 22, 2009

SYRACUSE, New York, January 22, 2009 (ENS) - In the state of New York consumers pay a five-cent deposit on beer and carbonated beverages and get that nickel back when they recycle the containers. In his 2009-10 budget Governor David Paterson has proposed expanding the law to apply to non-carbonated beverages to raise more money for the state and recycle more containers.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis is urging support of the "Bigger Better Bottle Bill," saying it would reduce litter, keep million of containers out of our landfills, help in the fight against global warming and generate badly needed revenue.

"As Governor Paterson has made clear, New York is facing a staggering budget deficit and must make many hard choices. But updating New York's 27-year-old Bottle Bill is not one of them," Grannis said on Wednesday during a news conference at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.

"Expanding the law to cover non-carbonated beverages such as fruit juice, water and sports drinks is long overdue," he said.

"It makes no sense to continue to differentiate these containers based on their contents - especially with non-carbonated drinks now making up more than one-quarter of the beverage market," Grannis said.

"An expanded bottle bill also will keep New York's roadsides, waterways and parks cleaner. Right now, too many plastic and glass containers end up as trash in our parks, playgrounds, rivers and lakes, the commissioner said. "And this problem will continue to grow as people buy more water and sports drinks."

Environmentalists are in favor of expanding the bottle bill. Dereth Glance, executive program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, "New Yorkers, from Montauk to Buffalo, have called for the modernization of our successful bottle bill for many years. Now economic realities make expanding the bottle bill a necessity. No longer can unredeemed nickels pad corporate bonuses, this revenue must now be directed to benefit the people, environment, and economy of New York State."

Cornelius B. Murphy Jr., president of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, ESF, has a special reason for supporting the expanded bottle bill.

"An ESF alum coined the phrase, 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,' which is at the heart of the expansion of the bottle bill to non-carbonated drinks," he said.

State number crunchers have come up with precise reasons to support the bill. They calculate that since the original bottle bill was enacted in 1982 requiring a five-cent deposit on beer and carbonated drinks, roadside litter has been reduced 70 percent.

More than 90 billion containers and six million tons of glass, aluminum and plastic have been recycled, resulting in saving more than 50 million barrels of oil and eliminating five million metric tons of greenhouse gases - a sum equal to getting 600,000 cars off the road for one year, according to state figures.

These numbers translate into public support for expansion of the bottle bill said Tom Rhoads, executive director of the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency.

"Every year, folks flock to our State Fair booth to passionately champion this popular issue," he said. "As a result, OCRRA has signatures from over 5,000 New Yorkers who are in favor of expanding the bottle bill. These supporters realize that updating this legislation makes both environmental and fiscal sense."

"I am also pleased to note that my peers in all three statewide waste management associations support this important opportunity to make the world a better place for our children," said Rhoads.

Grannis cited a 2005 study by the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency that found that while 80 percent of plastic soda bottles are recycled, just 16 percent of plastic water bottles are recovered.

The proposed bill would require the beverage industry to return unclaimed deposits to the state of New York, which would generate much needed revenue to cover state services that might otherwise be cut in these tough economic times.

"Currently, nickels that customers pay on soda and beer containers but never reclaim remain with the beverage manufacturers," Grannis said. "Under the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, the industry would be required to return these funds to the state. This would amount to more than $100 million a year at a time of enormous financial difficulty."