A Bigger, Better Bottle Bill

In A Smaller, Shrinking Economy

So far, the stimulus and sustainability entries have focussed on what environmental initiatives might be cut from the books. But today, we are highlighting the opportunity to push a recycling initiative through because it will bring in some much needed funding.

bottled-water-jj-0011Many New Yorkers don’t notice this, but our non-carbonated beverages don’t have a deposit amount listed on them. You can hold a bottle of seltzer in one hand and a bottle of non-carbonated water in the other and one will give you a nickel, while the other will not. The reason for this is probably more related to the fact that in 1982, when the initial bottle deposit law was passed, fruity non-carbonated beverages and bottled water–that now make up 1/3 of the beverage market–was a distant dream (or nightmare).

Extensive lobbying from the beverage industry and retailers–both large and small, and lack of support for the bill from the state senate have left prior attempts at changing the program to include non-carbonated beverages stalled (but passed) in the state assembly.

But seeing as a revamped program would bring in new funding to the tune of $118 million, it is a bit more sellable, to some. Essentially, the money would come from the unreturned deposits that right now end up back with the distributors. The total amounts to $93 million, but the higher figure, the $118 million, includes the unclaimed deposits that non-carbonated beverages would generate as well. So, the initiative is two fold: include non-carbonated beverages and give the extra funds to the state, which will directly benefit the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

While some are certainly warming up to the idea of an extended bottle bill, there are still foes. New Yorkers for Real Recycling has stated that, “It’s just bad policy.” Stating that it won’t actually improve recycling rates very much, they lobby for increased funding for curbside recycling programs. There is just one problem with that: They miss the money coming in part of the solution, which in these times is the attractive portion.

We will see what the final budget looks like on April 1st. But for those who have been working to get the bottle bill stepped up for quite some time, New York State’s budget issues certainly do have a silver lining.


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