New York Bottle Bil Campaigns:

Letter from NY Environmental Groups to legislators
on amendments to the bottle law

May 13th, 2009

The Honorable David A. Paterson
Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, NY  12224

Re: Amendments to the Bottle Law

Dear Governor Paterson:

Our groups applauded the recent enactment of the Bigger Better Bottle Law (Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2009), which will result in noticeably cleaner communities, higher recycling rates, new revenue for state programs, and hundreds of new “green jobs” across the state.

We understand that the Legislature is considering amending this law in response to concerns that businesses may not be able to comply with the new state-specific UPC labeling requirements in time for the June 1st start date. 

While our organizations are neutral on this specific provision, we are deeply concerned about additional potential amendments that would negatively impact bottle and can redemption in New York State.  

To ensure that the new law benefits New York’s environment, our groups urge you to oppose: 

Delaying Expansion:  The expansion to water bottles goes into effect on June 1st, 2009.  One legislative proposal (S.4736A/A.8143) delays the expansion until October 1st, 2009.   This delay is unacceptable, particularly since it would bypass the summer months when bottled water consumption is at its highest. In addition, such a delay would negatively impact state revenue.  We would support such a delay only if it were tied to a broader expansion to include sports drinks, energy drinks, teas, and other noncarbonated beverages.  This would make the state whole in terms of projected revenues and would offset the loss of over a billion bottles due to the delayed implementation of the expansion.

Limiting Consumers’ Rights to Return Containers:  Any change that makes it more difficult for consumers to return their empty containers will result in less recycling, reducing the environmental benefits of the law.  For instance, the new law provides a narrow exception allowing stores under 10,000 square feet to take back only 72 bottles and cans per person per day, significantly fewer than currently required, if there is a redemption center within half a mile and if the store sets a two-hour window per day when it will take back the full 240 bottles and cans per person per day required by law.  S.4736A/A.8143 changes this “and” to an “or,” thereby drastically curtailing redemption opportunities.  Our groups would strongly oppose this or any other changes to the law that would result in limiting consumers’ opportunities to return empty beverage containers to stores that sell them. 

Reducing Handling Fees:  The new law increases the handling fee that stores and redemption centers get from 2 cents to 3.5 cents per container – the first increase since 1997.   The handling fee pays for the recycling infrastructure needed to support the bottle law.   The higher handling fee will compensate retailers for complying with the expanded law and will encourage both nonprofit and privately-owned redemption centers to open and expand, creating hundreds if not thousands of new “green jobs” across the state.  This will ultimately improve and expand the public’s opportunities for bottle and can redemption, thereby benefiting recycling rates.

Removing all UPC Labeling Requirements:  While we do not have a position on the New York State-specific UPC code requirement, it is important that the other UPC labeling requirements remain in the law.   Currently, much of the bottled water for sale in New York is not sold individually but rather in a 6-pack or 24-pack, and often the bottles themselves do not have bar codes but only the packaging they are wrapped in.  The bar codes are necessary in order to allow reverse vending machines and other systems using optical scanners to accept these bottles, thereby making redemption easier for consumers.

In conclusion, we strongly urge you to oppose any amendments to the newly-updated bottle law that would reduce its environmental benefit or make it more difficult for consumers to redeem their empty containers for refunds.

Thank you for your leadership and commitment to protecting New York’s environment.

Laura Haight
Senior Environmental Associate
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)

Additional signatories attached
Scott M. Lorey
Legislative Director
Adirondack Council

Allison Beals
Director of Government Relations & Conservation
Adirondack Mountain Club

Barbara Toborg
Conservation Coordinator
American Littoral Society

Dereth Glance
Executive Program Director
Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE)

Barbara Warren
Executive Director
Citizens' Environmental Coalition

David Gahl
Policy Director
Environmental Advocates of New York

Jeremy Samuelson
Environmental Advocate
Group for the East End 

Manna Jo Greene
Environmental Director
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

Sally Rock-Blake
Jamesville Positive Action Committee (Jampac)

Ethan Winter
New York Conservation Manager
Land Trust Alliance

Barbara Bartoletti
Legislative Director
League of Women Voters of New York State

Anthony Coates
Long Island Environmental Voters Forum

Richard Amper
Executive Director
Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Rich Schrader
New York Legislative Director
Natural Resources Defense Council

Josh Nachowitz
New York State Policy Director
New York League of Conservation Voters

Robert J. Sann
New York Redeemers Coalition

Diane Woske
Board President
New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3)

Vicki Baker
people’s Environmental Network of New York  (pENNY)

Susan Lawrence
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter

Douglas Erb
Sure We Can (NYC)

Chris Wade
Surfrider Foundation – New York City Chapter

Katie Lawrence
Surfrider Foundation - Central Long Island Chapter

Jeff Twine
Upper West Side Recycling (NYC)

Cc:       Larry Schwartz, Secretary to the Governor
Judith Enck, Deputy Secretary for the Environment

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