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April 23, 2006

Syracuse Post-Standard

Adding to Success:
he 'Bigger Better Bottle Bill' expands the incentive to keep New York clean

Do you look at an empty soda bottle the same way as, say, a used-up juice bottle? Not if you're well-versed in the distinction between recyclables and redeemables, like most Central New Yorkers.

Non-carbonated beverage containers go in your blue recycling bins or at least they're supposed to. Soda cans and bottles usually don't end up in the ditch, the trash or even the blue bins, because few consumers like to throw away a nickel.

Problem is, the non-redeemable, recyclable juice or water bottle doesn't always reach the blue bin, either. Instead, it ends up in the trash can or worse, on the ground, in the creek, cluttering up the environment. That's because blue bins aren't always handy; some people are careless, lazy and/or indifferent; and besides, they didn't pay a nickel for it.

Which gets to the heart of the so-called "Bigger Better Bottle Bill." Proposed legislation in Albany would add a deposit to non-carbonated beverage containers. The bill also would create an environmental fund for unredeemed deposits the millions of dollars in nickels that are never paid back.

Expanding the bottle law is a good idea, long overdue. It passed the Assembly last year and stalled in the state Senate, where Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Rensselaer, dismissed the expansive legislation and called the bottle law itself an ineffective nuisance.

There's no better way to rebut the airy nonsense of Bruno and the more focused opposition of the beverage companies and retailers than to tell Onondaga County's story.

Led by OCRRA the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency this county has become a national leader in recycling, with a recovery rate of 69 percent. Bottle redemption rates range as high as 95 percent. Yet when it comes to non-deposit containers, the discard rate in Onondaga County ranges from 68 percent to 87 percent.

The industry campaign seeks to abolish the whole bottle law, and replace it with a business tax whose proceeds would support recycling programs. That has a nice, simple ring. But what happens to the incentive represented by the nickel deposit?

The 10 states that have bottle deposit laws recycle more containers than the other 40 states combined. By the way, Maine, Hawaii and California have had deposits on non-carbonated drink containers for years.

The one dispensable provision of New York's bill is the unclaimed deposit fund. While an environmental kitty sounds fine, that money could easily disappear into the general fund. Leave it instead for the beverage industry to help ease its pain.

Redeeming more containers means a little more work for you, the consumer or a bigger payoff for the Girl Scouts who take your donated containers. Either way, the environment is the greatest beneficiary.

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